Beads Stores

Written by Sarah Provost
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Consider this fair warning: you can get lost for hours wandering through the colorful delights offered by online bead stores. Marvel at the precision and the astonishing range of colors and finishes in Delica beads. Examine the intricacy of Bali silver, the brilliance of Swarovski crystal, or the serene, sophisticated beauty of pearls. You can browse for days and still not see all that the Internet has to offer.

If you have never beaded before, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of the choices before you. Bead stores help you narrow things down by grouping their beads into categories such as crystal and glass, natural materials, gemstones, and specific manufacturers or areas of origin. Limit yourself to Czech glass beads, for instance, and you'll still have enough options to keep you in awe.

Semi-Precious Gemstones and Crystal

If you're going for the glitter, go for the jewels. While true gems--diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies--are seldom made into beads, crystals and semi-precious gemstones can provide you with the bling-bling you desire. Gemstones are naturally occurring minerals and organic substances such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, garnets, pearls and amethysts. Crystal beads are manufactured. Lead oxide is added to glass, in proportions from one to 30 percent. This allows the glass to refract light and provide the rainbow effect crystal is noted for.

Gold, gold-filled, and sterling silver are also very popular materials for beads, charms and pendants. Bali beads are a particularly popular subset of silver beads, painstakingly created by hand in amazingly ornate designs. Alphabet beads, charms, pendants and other novelty beads are also commonly offered in gold and silver.

Less expensive beads are also beautiful, whether glass, natural materials such as wood or bone, or synthetics. Glass beads, particularly, run the gamut from the tiniest seed and Delica beads to complex dicronic and fire-formed focal beads. At online bead stores, you'll find everything from formal glass beads for prom night to funky plastic beads to wear to the beach.

Findings and Supplies

Online bead stores also stock a complete assortment of findings, tools and other supplies you'll need. Start with stringing materials, which come in many forms. Wire, cotton, silk or synthetics are offered, as well as special types such as memory wire and elastic threads.

Findings are all the little pieces you need to make your work wearable, such as clasps, crimps, caps, and end beads. Earring wires, pin backs, watch faces, purse forms, and other necessities are also available online. Findings are often grouped with the appropriate beads, such as Bali beads. Those findings are similar in character to the beads themselves, making it easier to coordinate, for example, the clasp with the necklace.

One caveat about buying beads online is that colors may vary according to your monitor and other factors. For this reason, if you are creating a piece with matching beads, it's best to order all your beads for the project at one time and from one source. If you are using mixed beads, spacers or rondelles, on the other hand, minor variations in color won't be noticeable.

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