Thursday, March 29, 2007

Secrets to Jewelry Supply Buying, Shhh, don't tell anyone...

Secrets to Jewelry Supply Buying
Shhh, don't tell anyone...

No, I'm not going to give you a list of my suppliers!! But I will give you some helpful hints in finding your own, and what I've learned. Especially things to avoid when purchasing supplies.

First off, nothing is one of a kind. Except my jewelry of course! Don't buy something just because they are telling you this in a store or on the web. I've found this to be really true with vintage beads and findings. Most of the time they have a stockpile of older pieces or they are being re-created in Hong Kong and shipped to the re-seller for pennies. So if it's a $25 lucite bead on any site, (won't mention names), you can guarantee that you can find a bag of them for $5 elsewhere. Shop around before you buy expensive items. What's expensive vintage on one store is going for less than 1/2 in another. Also, be wary of vintage charms and plastic. Many are reproductions and most are not made of the materials they claim. True vintage plastics like bakelite, celluloid, even real vintage lucite, can't be found that easily. So if it's readily available in a shop or cheaply priced, probably isn't the real thing. When someone claims something is one of these types of vintage plastics, please look at the price, seller reputation, etc. before buying. This mostly applies to bakelite and celluloid, lucite is still around in larger quantities.

Now my favorite, the myth of buying in bulk. Do you really need $100 of the same type of bead? Not to mention, even if you do manage to create many, many, beautiful items, will they sell? Buy in small quantity and keep as low an overhead as possible, because jewelry making is not like CostCo! Special pieces and unique finds are what keeps your jewelry interesting. Mass productions consisting of the same styles and beads will turn off your handmade and indie customers. Sometimes it's even cheaper for me to run to the local large craft store just to pick up a toggle clasp or an accent bead. Keep on hand the jewelry making musts, tools, wire, crimp beads, metal accents, chain, and carefully selected beads. Everything else can be found as you sell and decide where your market is and what direction you want to go in.

Should I buy on the internet? Yes, yes, yes! Buy from etsy we all destash our beads and supplies there and many of them are very interesting and unique. Also, I am not against auction sites. I have been dealing for years with several reputable sellers on the web and developed good relationships. Some people are honest and have fair prices. Keep track of them and ask your fellow crafters who they might recommend.

What's a fair price? I personally don't believe in buying from certain places with outrageously high prices for handmade glass beads. I'm not saying that the beads aren't worth it, but you must always be thinking about resale price. I've fallen in love (literally) with some fantastic lampwork artist's work. The problem is, if you buy $300 of lampwork beads and string them together with your own style and findings, mark it up for resale, there is only a very small market of people that will be able to purchase your product. Now, if you're willing to wait for that sale to come and have $100's of dollars to put into your creations, be my guest. Personally, I only buy expensive beads now when I'm making a custom order, giving a friend or family member a gift, or making something I'm keeping for myself! Please don't get the idea that I don't support these fabulous artists! This is just coming from a business and resale point of view.

Should I support my local small bead and craft store? This is fine if you want to pay higher prices for the same supplies you can get at the wholesale store or online. Which brings up wholesale. Everyone should have a resale license if they plan to sell jewelry anywhere. The drawbacks are few and having one will definitely benefit you and bring credibility to your business. I also pick and choose when to whip out my license, because sometimes it's better to pay the tax at the craft store then, instead of at the end of the year. Plus, it's only really good when you get a discount and pay no taxes. The best time to use your license, in my opinion, is on the web. Go google right now wholesale jewelry supplies. You will find great stores with amazing stock and lower prices. Never, never, buy beads on the web from a non-wholesale store. This is where people lose so much money when buying crystal and gemstones. The wholesalers are selling to the other stores, therefore, of course there's going to be a huge mark-up! A real wholesale jewelry supply store will want you to prove that you do own a resale license. So don't be tricked by stores that say they're wholesale. Unless you have to sign up and show your license, they are just trying to get you in the door.

Special names like "swavorski" may impress buyers, but genuine swavorski crystal is not as available as people think. Most suppliers feel free to throw this name around and it simply isn't true 99% of the time. If you do want really nice crystal it's okay to buy it in bulk from wholesalers and czech glass always makes just as pretty of an accent when surrounded by more expensive beads.

This is the same thing when buying gemstones. Most, if not all, really are dyed and not the original color. So don't pay outrageous prices for them unless you are 100% sure that they are naturally made and not factory colored. I see so many pieces of jewelry for crazy prices because they claim that they have used "genuine gemstones". If you are paying right now, or have ever paid, more than $20 for a strand of gemstones, you will never get your money back in resale. Plus, you have been overpaying terribly for something you could've bought wholesale. I have bought genuine pearls, amethyst, quartz, tiger's eye, and many others from overseas sellers for less than $5 a strand. Not to mention, the shipping was a lot less than some American dealers. Same quality, better price. It is all coming from the same place, you just have to decide what part of the food chain you want to be on! I choose to go closest to the top and save money.

To summarize, get a wholesale license! Saves you money and opens up new buying opportunities! Buy less and save more, you don't need to keep $1,000 of inventory just sitting there. Trends change, styles change, and your designs will too. Buy as you go so you can stay interested in your projects and give your customers unique products.

Only buy beads you can afford! Yes, beautiful lampwork beads are fantastic! But can you afford to wait for the bracelet you made with them to sell? And what if it doesn't? Small businesses can't afford to take $100's of dollars worth of losses.

Buy online and get to know your sellers. Ask other crafters who they trust and read feedback for sellers on auction sites. Be careful when buying unique or vintage items, most aren't what they claim, and it will be reflected in the price. If you see some modern looking bracelets that the seller claims is bakelite and wants $20 for, it's not bakelite! As much as we all wish these fabulous finds would fall into our laps, it's not going to happen! You have to pay for real vintage and rare goods. So buy what you love and really want.

To conclude, just because it's called genuine gemstone, doesn't mean it should cost the same as diamonds! Buy it wholesale at a discount in the small quantity you need for your project. Over paying and therefore overcharging, for the same supplies your competitors are saving on is never good for business!

Happy Jewelry Making! Tara