The Best Sources for Vintage Beads, Findings, and Jewelry Components
Vintage beads and jewelry supplies are, by definition, a limited and dwindling resource. Understandably, designers who know the best sources tend to keep their favorites a closely guarded secret!
I remember how hard it was for me to find genuine vintage beads, stones, seed pearls, findings, filigree and stampings, as well as high-quality reproduction vintage jewelry components. It took me years to suss out the sellers with the best stashes whom I could rely on for great finds. Now I'm sharing some of my favorites with others who love working with vintage jewelry materials as much as I do. Some of them are well known to designers in the business; others are lesser known gems.
What Makes Vintage Beads So Special
They just don't make 'em like they used to! Swarovski's gorgeous special effects colors from a few decades ago just haven't been the same since they changed the coatings to use less dangerous and less expensive to produce processes and materials than they did in the vintage Swarovski crystal special effects colors. Now that they're moving to lead free crystal, it's hard to imagine that even the underlying crystal beads will have the same clarity and sparkle as leaded glass. And even good-quality contemporary glass pearls just don't hold a candle to vintage glass pearls from pre-World War II Japan. Vintage lucite beads and components are fabulous, fun, funky, and lightweight, which makes them great for larger, bolder designs.
Finding these increasingly rare treasures is a real challenge!
Two Valuable Shopping Tips
- Because of the nature of vintage jewelry supplies, the offerings are limited and change often, so you never know what goodies you'll find. It pays to check back often to see what's new.
- When you find vintage beads, chain, findings, crystals, etc., that you really love, buy them right away ... because if you wait to make up your mind you may well have missed your chance to get them. When rare vintage products are gone, they're gone for good!
Have You Ever Shopped for Vintage Beads and Jewelry Making Components?
If so, where do you prefer to shop?
Some of My Favorite Sources
Many of the best sources will sell only to professional designers, and usually only to those who have a wholesale buying license, AKA a resale certificate. But there are some terrific places to buy that also are willing to sell direct to consumers. Here are some of my favorites.
This online store breaks out its large selection of unusual vintage beads by color family, which can be a convenient way to find beads in coordinating shades. There also are vintage pendants, vintage beads with embedded wires and unusual cabochons.
- Bead Happily Ever After
This site specializes in vintage Lucite beads, and also carries vintage Swarovski crystal beads and vintage cabochons and cameos. No minimum order, very reasonable shipping charges, and free shipping within the US for purchases of $50.00 and over.
The Beadroom carries both vintage and contemporary glass beads, and like several other sites groups its vintage glass beads by color families. The curated selection is limited but excellent, with some really unusual styles to be found here.
- B'sue Boutiques
Brenda Sue Lansdowne's online store carries a sensational assortment of vintage filigrees, stampings, bracelet and ring collage bases, beads, stones, charms, findings, glues and finishes, everything you need to make your own vintage-inspired jewelry.
- Eastern Findings
Eastern Findings is a terrific source for filigrees, screen and prong findings and vintage-inspired stampings. Orders under $25 are not accepted, and orders between $25 and $49.99 incur a $5 small order fee. Call or email them for a price quote.
- Estate Beads
Estate Beads carries wonderful vintage clasps, beads, etc. plus contemporary beads, findings and supplies and vintage jewelry from collectible designers like Trifari, Miriam Haskell, Danecraft, James Avery, Weiss, Coro, and Christian Dior.
- A Grain of Sand
This site has fabulous vintage and contemporary beads, stones and other components, including some rare items and great clasps. They also sell some gorgeous semiprecious stone beads. One of the few retail sources offering closeouts on vintage items.
- Jan's Jewelry Supplies
Jan is great to work with, and always has cool and unusual vintage beads, stones, castings and findings at great prices. Find settings for your vintage stones and a wide variety of jewelry bases onto which you can glue or wire stones and filigrees.
Jewelex.com claims to be "The Largest Online Source for Vintage Glass Beads and Findings" and the breadth of its selection is second to none. The prices are high, but the beads are phenomenal and you'll find rare treasures. Note: Turnaround is slow!
- Splendor in the Glass
Be prepared to drool when you visit this site that carries exceptional, very rare and absolutely spectacular vintage beads and components, many one-of-a-kind. Prices match their quality and rarity. 30% discount on merchandise orders of $50 and over.
Susan Street is one of the best sources for high-quality vintage and reproduction vintage jewelry making supplies. Her huge selection of gorgeous brass filigree components with antiqued patinas, most made from vintage dies, are especially noteworthy.
For Professional Designers
Vintage beads and jewelry components are not often discounted, since they are in such scarce supply. But there are some discounts to be had.
The following resources offer wholesale pricing with minimum purchase amounts to jewelry designers who have a valid resale certificate / resale ID number.
- Bead Happily Ever After - Wholesale
Bead Happily Ever After offers registered wholesale vendors a 30% discount on everything they sell. The first order must be at least $100 to qualify for the discount, but there is no minimum for subsequent wholesale orders.
- Estate Beads - Wholesale
See the description in the retail sources section, above, for a description of what they carry. Minimum wholesale order $200 with resale number. Wholesale discount is 15% off orders of $200-$499 and 20% off orders of $500 or more.
- A Grain of Sand - Wholesale
See the retail resources section above for a description of what this supplier carries. Discounts for approved wholesale buyers on regular price items are 20% off $100 purchases, 25% off $250, 30% off $500 and 40% off buys of $1500 or more.
- Wolf E. Myrow, Inc.
Wolf E. Myrow is a wholesale-only dealer for closeout jewelry supplies and wholesale jewelry findings that stocks huge warehouse of hidden treasures. The website has a great page of vintage merchandise.
CJS Sales in New York City
A Vintage Beads and Supplies Paradise for Jewelry Designers
CJS Sales is like a dream come true for jewelry designers who work with vintage beads, crystals, stones, components and findings. Although I haven't had the chance yet to get back to New York to explore it for myself, this vast 5,000 square foot warehouse of vintage jewelry supplies is legendary among those in the know! CJS Sales has been written up in Accessories Magazine, Metal Clay Artist Magazine and others. My close friend, colleague and editor of Creative Fire, Jeannette LeBlanc, was dazzled when she visited CJS Sales to interview the co-owners, the father-daughter team of Carl and Elyse Schimel, and was treated to a personal tour.
This is not a place to browse casually (remember, it's a 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse!), and Carl and Elyse sell only face-to-face to wholesale buyers who make the trip there. (Don't even bother with the web site.) But if you're a jewelry designer who's in the market for unusual vintage beads, stones, settings, findings and other vintage jewelry supplies that will make your designs stand out, CJS Sales needs to be on your bucket list.
CJS Sales is located at 16 West 36th Street, 2nd floor, New York, New York 10018 and is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. You can contact Elyse, who's in charge of sales, at (212) 244-1400 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: CJS Has Lost Its Lease!
Contact Elyse for updates as she and Carl look for a new space to relocate their business.
eBay: A Surprisingly Good Source of Vintage Beads and Jewelry Components
Including Some Vintage Beads and Jewelry Components You Won't See Anywhere Else
Because vintage beads are, by their nature, in increasingly short supply, it's important to have as many potential sources for what you are looking for as possible. With sellers worldwide and a constantly changing selection of products, it's a good idea to check eBay on a regular basis to see when new vintage beads auctions are listed, since when the supply of something that has not been made for decades is gone, it's gone.
Time Saving Tip: Create a Saved Search on eBay and sign up to receive daily emails when new items that match your search criteria are added to the site. This is a huge time saver, especially when you are trying to find rare or unusual beads.
Rare Vintage Swarovski Crystal Beads and Stones
Nothing sparkles and shines like vintage Swarovksi crystal beads! Many styles have become rare and can be very hard to find. If you set up a search and monitor the results daily, it is possible to find extremely rare vintage Swarovski crystal beads, glass beads, and components on eBay that you can't find elsewhere, and usually at a much lower price than at retail vintage bead stores or sites.
Vintage Glass Pearls
High quality vintage glass pearls can be absolutely gorgeous. They were very popular with the top costume jewelry designers of the era, especially baroque pearl shapes. Glass seed pearls also were a favorite in designs that used a technique known as cagework beadery or tapestry beading, in which the tiny seed pearls and other beads were hand embroidered with fine wire onto brass filigree stampings.
When buying vintage glass pearls, be sure to contact the seller first to ask whether the coating is still intact, without chips, and retains its original luster.
eBay Stores That Specialize in Vintage Beads, Filigree, Settings and Vintage Swarovski Crystal
Many of the best eBay sellers for these types of vintage jewelry making materials have managed to accumulate huge stashes of valuable vintage beads, stampings, settings, etc. Some of them purchased the closeout inventory from high-end jewelry manufacturers and suppliers who went out of business many years ago. Their eBay stores can be an awesome resource for rare, hard-to-find vintage Swarovski crystal beads and stones as well as other rare and unusual vintage jewelry making supplies. Here are two of my favorites.
Beading in the Rain
Beading in the Rain sells some extremely rare and very beautiful vintage Swarovski beads and stones. There's always something drool-worthy in this awesome eBay store!
Bonkers for Beads
Bonnie Coulombe sells very high quality vintage beads, findings and components, some of them quite rare and hard to find, in her eBay store as well as on Etsy under the name Bonkers for Beads.
As on eBay, the vintage beads and vintage jewelry components on Etsy vary in rarity and quality. Here are a few of the sellers who seem to have a consistently good selection of these materials.
Beadbrats specializes in vintage beads (especially nail head beads), sew-on jewels and findings. I've found some great vintage givre, West German pressed glass and Swarovski crystal beads here as well as some lovely cabochons and rose montee jewels.
- BonkersForBeads on Etsy
This is Bonnie Coulombe's Etsy shop for her Bonkers For Beads business. She always has a great selection.
- Vintage Bead Cache
This Etsy seller specializes in new old stock (NOS) vintage jewelry components and beads, so all the items are in excellent condition. The owner loves vintage Lucite beads and offers tiered volume discounts on purchases totaling $100 or higher.
© 2010 Margaret Schindel