Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bead Benefits

Sterling Silver Shark Tooth Brushed Italian Bead

I've always found beads and jewelery making strongly therapeutic. The focus washes away all worries and I come out of each design session feeling strangely more refreshed and lucid. However, it wasn't until recently that I received some confirmation of the benefits of beads and the girls made little bracelets to keep. It was a hit and they had lots of fun. The beads were very inexpensive, and I was almost appalled they used plastic beads and poorly painted wooden beads. The parents thought it was the best and the kids were thrilled. The bead snob in me decided to show them what good beads look like, and I was going to outdo everyone with the best sterling clasps look like, I thought I could teach them how to finish their own pieces properly. So, it wasn't a bead party that would end all bead parties.

There was a brother (age 6) and sister (age 8) who were part of the group that came out. I actually didn't invite the brother even though he was my daughter's best friend. I naturally assumed that he would not be interested because his parents seemed so gender conservative and dressed him mainly in greens and blues. He had also declined attending parties which my daughter didn't go because he didn't want to be the only boy. My daughter is a tom girl, so he feels she doesn't count as a girl. Anyhow, his mother asked if she could bring him. I was embarrassed of my assumption and wholeheartedly welcomed them. But I brought out my daughter's collection of shark's teeth fossils, boxier sterling clasps and thick leather, just in case if the beads don't go over very well. The boy's mother is a neurologist at the Sick Children's Hospital, i.e. a brain specialist. His father is a paediatric heart specialist at the same hospital. So, they're really into the development of children. While the children are engrossed in the platters full of beads, the mother told me why she encourages her son to do beading. In fact, she has beads at home and she had read many studies that point to the benefits of bead counting and sorting for a child's brain development. Not only will it improve their mathematical skills, it helps develop patience. It also has calming effects on hyperactive children. The size of the beads should vary inversely with the children's age for safety, of course. The little boy is brilliant and very patient. However, I don't know if that has got more to do with genetics than just a lot of bead sorting.

The session was a smash and the mothers were intrigued, and rather dazzled by the array of glass beads, crystals, pearls and stone beads. I find that an easy finish for the bracelets were the lobster clasp . Or for slightly older children and limited budget, one might consider the larger spring ring clasp.

You can certainly contribute to the well being of your friends and family. The necklace making party only took about 2 hours, but it was great for them. The moms wanted to offer money so I'd hold it again. The kids didn't want to go. So, it was worthwhile. I'd recommend larger shell beads. Czech crystals are great. Stringing material can simply be elastic for the little ones.

By the way, the pirate's necklace with the shark tooth was amazing. I used 22 ga sterling wire and wrapped around the tooth, ending in a loop for leather to go through. I think he will treasure the necklace forever.

Sterling Silver Components Are Worth the World

I often lament that I am not in the medical field, researching cures for a contagious and deadly disease, or that I am not contributing more to society as Gandhi had. I've only recently realized how much happier I am that I did not become a lawyer, as I had aspired to be, and as most of my friends have become. Nonetheless, there are moments in the quiet hours of my evenings that I feel I have not contributed as much to society as I feel I possibly could. After all, jewellery making , and to a finer point, sterling silver components is often thought of as superfluous. The world of fashion is rather superficial, and I often wonder what evolutionary purpose does adorning oneself really serve? Are we not intelligent enough to see that outer appearance is not necessarily indicative of one's inner qualities? However, I oscillate between loathing all things physically beautiful and embracing them as things that make us feel good, and thus make us human, and therefore, important and necessary, and even desired.

I recently read an article about music and the possible purpose it serves as part of human mating rituals. It takes a great deal of time to master an instrument. So, it must serve an important purpose in our evolutionary selection. The researchers theorized that musical talent indicates vigorousness, coordination and health. I am tone deaf. But my saving grace is that I am artistic , i.e. super visual, great with colour and can remember a picture as clearly as....a picture. So, this is what I tell myself, and it's proven positive that my husband didn't just make a mistake, but rather I was selected by higher order.

I was a guest on the panel of specialists in Style by Jury, where a would-be jewelery designer was going through transformations. There was a therapist on board. He's done many talks and works with a number of Hollywood Stars. He mentioned that things that are commercially successful are things that make us feel good. It is human nature. For some reason what he said that night made a lot of sense, though as simple and commercial as it may seem. In its smallest denominator, I want beautiful and unique sterling silver components that speak to me and make jewelery designing easy and pleasurable. I want jewelery that I design make people feel good about themselves, removing them from the doldrums of the ordinary.

I recently realized that I am but a small cog in a large wheel. However, I do contribute in important ways. Someone at a tradeshow once said "Creativity is cheaper than therapy." This is very true, and we create happiness for many. Our sterling silver components create employment and livelihood for many people and their families. Our happiness as jewellery designers creates joy for those around us. We contribute in many small, and large, ways.

Although I still hope that one of my children end up in the medical field or decide to dedicate their lives to a more visible good of mankind, I'd be very happy if they were happy, doing whatever they can apply themselves doing. I'd be equally happy and proud if they decided to create beautiful jewellery to improve other people's moods and for people to admire as I would be if they became brain surgeons. I think I'd be very especially proud and touched if designed jewellery and when they come upon sterling silver components that I've designed, they think I've done a great job; for this is my life, and jewellery components is my passion. I have decided to contribute to this world the best way I know how, and to make a mark by touching someone's life and jewellery designs . I am living the life exactly how I want to, designing with pride, and enjoying every minute of it. And I am positive I'm contributing more to society than any of my lawyer friends.

Click here to browse through Stones and Findings' sterling silver components!

Chinese Sterling Silver Findings

Sterling silver findings from China vary a great deal in terms of price and quality. You really end up getting what you paid for. In general, quality has improved dramatically in the past 5 years and many sterling silver findings made in China are now world-class.

There are ISO 9000 certified companies, many of which house Italian and German machinery to make their findings. The prices from these companies are not cheap, but they run about 15% less than Italian and Israeli companies for comparable items. The intricacy and precision in many sterling silver pieces will often be higher from these Chinese factories. I have found them willing to make difficult to make sterling silver findings which the Italian, Israeli and Indian factories are not willing or able to make. Many Chinese factories use the latest CAD machinery in their model making. Asians like precision designs, and appreciate machine made perfection, much like the Germans do. However, Asians like either a cutesier or more elegant look, whereas Germans appreciate a more minimalist industrial look. And because of this, Chinese factories have been willing to invest in machinery to achieve this look in their sterling silver components, and they have large talent pool of fine craftsmen, whose art has been passed down from generation to generation from which to draw. You can find some of the sterling silver findings which I've designed and got made in China: Double Hollow Pears, Circle Pendant with Leaf Filigree, Leaf Pedants , Circle Filigree Pedants and more.

I have also dealt with some Chinese factories that just can't make good sterling silver findings, no matter how hard they try. And generally, these are the common characteristics that are visible at tradeshows: their designs are thick and chunky, their samples have visible solder marks, they don't understand North American taste (and thus, generally its quality expectations). You can spot, and should stay miles away from these sterling silver suppliers. These factories tend to be much more labour intensive, and for sterling silver findings, there are some designs which you can't make by hand, let alone cost-effectively. Especially with the labour shortage of late, many factories rely on unskilled labour from northern provinces in order to maintain competitive prices for sterling silver findings. Price of sterling silver has risen, so raw material cost has exacerbated the situation. Always do a small test order, if you must import yourself. Try using a buying agent whenever possible. They have much more business leverage and the factories are much more eager to satisfy their demands than a small independent. The agent will charge you 10 -15% for their services, but it is well worth it. However, wholesale prices for sterling silver components has been driven so low by competition that quite often, the margin is only 3% to 7%. So, it is much better to just order from your local suppliers than to venture and risk getting burned and working extra hard. And we haven't started talking about travel costs.

Chinese factories in the past, in keeping with common Asian custom, will never embarrass a customer by saying no to an order. However, they just don't deliver or respond when you enquire. This is no different for sterling silver findings factories, which predominantly serve the western market (Asians still prefer gold, or if costume jewellery, they like base metal). However, this annoying custom is changing as the markets have opened up more. Nonetheless, it is up to the customer to push for things, be it better quality, or more timely delivery.

I've become increasingly happy with Chinese sterling silver findings suppliers. Some of the best quality sterling silver findings I've had made come from the 3 factories I work with. They've bettered some of the best Italian and Israeli sterling silver findings companies we work with.

To see some of the sterling silver components that Stones and Findings carries (that we import from all over the world), click here!

Vancouver Bead Stores

There are a number of Vancouver Bead Stores. They are also all of fairly high calibre, compared to the bead stores of other major Canadian cities. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Vancouverites are willing to spend more money on handmade goods. There are more small jewellery artisans per capita in Vancouver than any other major metropolis.

One of my favourites is Country Beads, owned by my friend Susan Gill. It is managed by Danika, a super talented and wonderful gal, and helped run by an army of fantastic and bubbly jewellery designers. Sue is the creative business woman behind the scene all these years. She has a gift for colour and likes warm and inviting interiors. I like her display ideas. She's people oriented, well traveled, open minded, and the ideal person to own a Vancouver Bead Store. Sue has a great eye for trends and quality. She hand picks all of her stones and Country Beads has the best selection of Indian cut stones in Vancouver. They provide steep volume discounts to wholesale jewellery designers. The store is definitely worth a visit and they're working on an online store.

Kimdoly specializes in inexpensive Chinese stone beads. They have 2 locations, and exhibit at all the major bead shows in Vancouver. Their prices are competitive and they have a large selection of stone beads. The variety is not different from regular Chinese stone beads. They believe their customer base is more price conscious, and their selection of sterling silver components is almost non-existent. If you like their selection of stone beads, but you don't want to go elsewhere to buy your sterling silver, you need to speak to the owners to get them to bring it in.

Capilano Rock And Gem is located on the north shore. It is a direct competitor to Country Beads, but without the meticulous selection. They have a large selection of sterling wire, sheets and casting grains. They also have a good selection of gold filled wires. They have a fair amount of pearls, but not a lot of stone beads.

There are a couple of Beadworks locations. One of them is located in Granville Island. It is very pretty and a relaxed location to shop in. However, like all Beadworks locations, the selection is limited and the prices are strictly retail.

Beadsmart is located in Richmond, but since they draw many Vancouver clients, I consider them as one of the Vancouver Bead Stores. The owner Cindy is very generous and their prices are great. They have purportedly the lowest prices and largest colour selection of Swarovski crystals. Cindy's partner, Kareen, is a retired banker who is very talented and has a great eye for colour co-ordination. She holds beading and wire wrapping classes. They have some fine chains a small selection of good clasps. They carry a good selection of sterling and gold-filled wire in different gauges. You can negotiate for volume discount and many regular customers get little gifts without having to ask.

Many retail customers go to Fire Mountain Gems across the border to do their shopping. However, it has been said that the stone beads from Fire Mountain Gems is poor and they've had to switch back to buying locally. The minimums at Fire Mountain Gems is low, but again, unless you buy a significant amount, the duties and shipping will not make it cost effective.

Vancouver Bead Stores are sophisticated and prices are as price competitive as that of many major cities. Because there are many professional jewellery designers in the city, Vancouver Bead Stores are prompted to carry better selection and enable themselves to sell wholesale in order to compete.

To take a look at what Stones and Findings, a Canadian sterling silver wholesaler, can provide, click here!