The Three Sisters: Choose Your Materials to Suit Your Market

by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads

There were once three beautiful sisters: one was charming, one was clever and one was kind. Each sister married a different man: one married a prince, one married a professor and one married a potter. And each was very happy, for they were very suited to the lives they were living.

Jewelry-making supplies have the same story: some will marry princes, some will marry professors and some will marry potters. So each finished piece is equally beautiful in very, very different ways.

Some jewelry designers and resellers will try to shame you for loving a potter. They will tell you that unless you're working with princely materials (at the princely prices they will charge you for them), you're not making anything beautiful. But you love leopardskin jasper--all those patterns and colors!--and your customers love it, too. They buy everything you make and always want more.

This is why there are so many different types of beads, all with the same role in different jewelry designs: each is part of a very different market, each for very different people and each has very different jewelry needs: some are princes, some are professors, some are potters. Each is beautiful and valuable in very different ways.

Here are some examples:

Gemstone Beads and Their Grades
We love gemstone--it's how we got started, after all. You'll notice there are many different grades and groupings of gemstones available on the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads website and in the catalogs. There are A Grade, B Grade and Promo Beads; one's a prince, one's a professor and one's a potter!

Princely A grade Designer-Quality gemstone beads can charm money out of a high-end market. They are best presented mixed with other princely materials and offered in exclusive boutiques and galleries.

Professorly B grade gemstone beads are a smart choice for a mid-range market. You'll see them most often in quirky gallery spaces, local shoppes, consignment stores and artists' co-ops--especially in places that are slowly gentrifying.

Potterly C grade gemstone Promo Beads are designed for production purposes, for those creating high quantities of finished pieces. They offer color and gemstone value that can be marketed at affordable prices to a range of people. You'll see them both at department stores (where mass production is absolutely necessary) and at craft shows with lots of foot traffic.

We call it a ''gold standard'' for a reason. Whether a designer uses metal for its financial value or only for its look of richness, gold is perceived as being the most princely of metal choices. Metal beads, findings and components offer the most options for the jewelry maker, with multiple varieties of the same or similar items which can be sorted according to a range of factors such as financial or finish.

Princely Karat gold and fine silver are princely metals. Pair them up with A grade gemstones and Swarovski® crystals for royal style. For a modern twist, use high-end, high-tech metals like niobium and titanium.

Professorly Gold- and silver-filled (along with sterling silver) are intelligent options for the mid-range market. These metals are a dynamic duo when used with B grade, regular stock gemstones as well as Preciosa glass beads.

Potterly Plated and finished metals--along with alternatives such as pewter, ''pewter,'' stainless steel, brass and copper--make ideal teammates for gemstone Promo Beads as well as Celestial Crystal® glass beads.

Crystal and Glass Beads
Helloooooo, sparkle! Eye-catching sparkle from faceted bicones is one of jewelry-making's little joys, so there are lots of choices here, too: princely Swarovski crystals, professorly Preciosa and potterly Celestial Crystal.

Princely A grade Designer-Quality gemstone beads just call out for Swarovski crystals. These Austrian-made crystal glass beads allow you to charge a princely sum for your work.

Professorly The astute jewelry designer pairs B grade gemstone beads with tradition-rich Preciosa glass.

Potterly Celestial Crystal glass combines beautifully with production-grade Promo Beads for high-output design manufacturing. They bring light into a piece without detracting from the subtle beauty of the gemstones.

Accu-Flex® Professional Beading Wire
Of course, you need something to string with. Accu-Flex rides in to save the day with multiple weights, materials and colors. Different weights of Accu-Flex wire accept different weight loads, offering different presentations for different gemstone, metal or crystal glass beads: princely 49-strand, professorly 21-strand and potterly 7-strand.

Princely 49-strand Accu-Flex beading wire has the softest drape, with all those tiny cables of stainless steel wire inside. It's flexible and drapes elegantly (almost as well as thread), but is strong and reliable.

Professorly 21-strand Accu-Flex beading wire accepts mid-weight beads and components. The firmer drape offers resistance to heavier pieces.

Potterly 7-strand Accu-Flex beading wire offers the firmest drape, ideal for larger beads without sharp edges, and for New Wave looks that imply rigidity but are still comfortable to wear.

Displays and Packaging
And, finally, you need something to showcase this all on--or in! Displays and packaging have to match what you're creating and selling. Displaying a 14Kt gold-filled and A grade amethyst necklace on a flat acrylic display confuses the customer--are they getting a princely creation or are you using some cheap fillers and hiding it? And if you sell your colorful, inexpensive acrylic bracelets on an elegant, upscale wood-and-leatherette display, customers can walk right past them, because they look too expensive.

Continue that thought process into how you package your customers' purchases, too. Which customer base gets the velveteen-lined wood box? Which does better with a gauze gift bag? The ever-popular cotton-filled paper boxes work just about anywhere, with the floral and leopard print versions doing very well among the professors and potters!

Princely Displays and Packaging Princely For your princely market and customers, choose upscale and elegant displays. Polished wood, leather or leatherette, porcelain and metal shapes will showcase your work appropriately, whether traditional or more contemporary. Made a sale? Present it in a lacquered wood box that's as elegant as your jewelry.

Professorly Leather and leatherette displays are ideal for more understated styles, while fiber-covered torsos and acrylic mannequin shapes can work great for funky counterculture looks. Made a sale? Package it up in velveteen or leatherette box for a solid, mid-range presentation. Professorly Displays and Packaging

Potterly Displays and Packaging Potterly Lightweight, foldable or stackable acrylic displays are just the thing for colorful mass-production work. Foam is great for a collection of toe rings, too! Made a sale? You get to choose all the fun of colorful pouches, in everything from Christmas-y red velveteen to shimmery fluorescent blue satin to translucent organza--and everything in between!

You'll find the same beads, boxes, clasps, beading wire and other jewelry-making supplies in a range of price points, grades, weights and complexities in order to suit the market you're in. Whether your customers are princes, professors or potters, they all deserve the happy--and beautiful!--ending your jewelry creations offer them.

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