Margaret Schindel has designed, created and sold one-of-a-kind and custom handcrafted jewelry for decades. She loves sharing her techniques.
Vintage beads and jewelry supplies are, by definition, a limited and dwindling resource. Understandably, designers who know the best places to find them usually keep their favorites a closely guarded secret. So, when I started designing jewelry, it took me many years and a lot of hard work and research to suss out the best stashes of genuine vintage beads, stones, seed pearls, findings, filigrees, stampings, high-quality reproduction vintage jewelry components.
I've decided it's time to share some of my favorite sources 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, while others are lesser known gems.
What Makes Vintage Beads So Desirable?
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. 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!
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.
- 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.
- beadbrats (Etsy)
Beadbrats specializes in vintage beads (including nailheads), sew-on glass jewels, findings and trim. I've found some wonderful old West German pressed glass and Swarovski crystal beads, lovely cabochons, and rose montee sew-ons here.
- Beading In The Rain (Etsy)
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 Etsy shop!
- 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.
- beedhappy (Etsy)
This terrific Etsy shop has a huge selection of vintage glass beads, glass cabochons, rhinestones and vintage brass findings.
- Bonkers For Beads (Etsy)
A fabulous choice of vintage and contemporary beads, stones, clasps, and other jewelry components, including some rare vintage beads and other NOS (new old stock) items. Some wonderful finds!
- 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.
Elvee/Rosenberg carries a huge inventory of authentic vintage glass beads, stones, findings, etc., made for and imported by the company, mostly from Germany, Japan, Czechoslovakia, France and Austria. The vintage cultura glass pearls are gorgeous.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vintage Bead Cache (Etsy)
This Etsy seller specializes in new old stock (NOS) vintage beads, findings and other jewelry components and beads, mostly lucite, acrylic and plastic, produced in the mid-1950s for fashion jewelry designers and stored in warehouses for decades.
- Vintage Beads
Bettina Jordan has been buying and selling vintage beads since 1999. Her online shop contains a great selection of rare and unusual vintage beads.
This site is an excellent resource for high-quality vintage and reproduction vintage jewelry making supplies. The huge selection of gorgeous brass filigree components with antiqued patinas, most made from vintage dies, is 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.
- 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 certificate or number. Wholesale discount is 15% off orders of $200-$499 and 20% off orders of $500 or more.
- A Grain of Sand - Wholesale
Link is to wholesale application; see retail resources above for what they carry. Approved wholesale buyers discounts on regular price orders: 20% off $100-$249; 25% off $250-$499; 30% off $500-$1499; 40% off $1500 or higher.
- 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.