beads and wire (cheapXexpensive)

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Spider@5 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 9:55 AM


I am planning on making some necklaces and selling them and I would be grateful for any advice on this subject.

I have some gorgeous, expensive beads but i don't have the money or confidence to use silver with them.

I am thinking that good quality, expensive beads should be used with good expensive metals and cheap beads used with cheap wire to make the most of their worth.

How do I get around this problem? Should I wait and use the good beads once I have enough money to buy good silver? what do you knowledgeable guys do?

Thank you.

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Erin@76 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 11:03 AM

There is no reason you have to use silver, or any other metal, for that matter. You can just string your beads on to beading wire--you don't have to do any wire wrapping or chain making, just beads with a clasp.

You don't mention what kind of beads you have--are they stone, lampwork, crystals, pearls, metal, etc? Any beads can look great, even if they are not expensive, just by putting them together attractively with other contrasting beads. And of course the opposite is true as well--expensive beads do not guarantee a good finished result. Its more about the design than the beads.

I suggest you do a little reasearch on websites like Etsy where there is a huge selection of hand-made jewelry that may help spark some ideas for you. You can do a search for jewelry made with the specific type of beads you have, and see what others have done with it. (of course, if you are going to sell the jewelry, be careful not to "copy" someone else's design, as that is totally uncool.)

If you really want to use metal for your necklaces, there are lots of beautiful things available in copper right now that are a fraction of the cost of silver.

hope this helps.


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Spider@5 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 11:38 AM

 Hi Erin,

Thank you very much for your help.:o)

The beads are mainly semi precious stones. Opal, Lapis Lazuli and Jade. I have some ideas that i have roughly sketched on a writing pad and i would like for them to look their best.

You mentioned copper and you are right. i love it but I have no idea about what is cool. you have just given me some confidence to try it.

Thank you:o)

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Hannah@44 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 11:52 AM

Hi.  I too, always think that expensive beads need to go with expensive designs (I'm always looking for the "good stuff").  However, I've discovered that there are a myriad of ways to keep the cost down- even using some of your most expensive beads to make your least expensive necklaces.  A beautiful pendant or artbead can be strung on a simple silk cord or strand of glass seeds, even leather (or a combination).  The pendant will be perfectly presented, and the stringing costs almost nothing.  Instead of using silver or gold seed beads, try using metallic glass seeds.  Also, you don't have to bead the whole necklace; unless your design can be seen from any section (as in a doubled rope).  Put your best design in the middle of the necklace, and then use chain or a strand of small beads to finish the ends.  And unless your clasp is part of your design, you can hold down the cost by using lobster clasps and jump rings.  Another trick I like to use, is to come up with several short "station" designs, and separate them using tiny beads or chain.  You get to make beautiful designs, but don't have to spend a fortune to create enough length.

Lastly, remember two things:  1.  Silver may be expensive, but the price isn't going down.  Whatever you don't use is an investment that will increase in value.  And if you do use it, and don't like the design, you can always restring.  2.  Unless your customer base is very sophisticated, many people don't know or don't care about whether your materials are the "real thing."  What they want is a beautiful piece of jewelry at a price they are willing to pay.  Just make sure that you are honest when you sell- don't let them believe that your selling silver if it's really white metal.

Hannah Anbar


Anbeads, LLC

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Spider@5 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 3:24 PM

 Thank you Hannah,

you gave me some great ideas!

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popnicute wrote
on Jan 21, 2009 9:37 AM

i agree with the others.

my opinion is, to consider your creating time. if the design you're about to create would take you 8 hours to make, i'd suggest you to use your best material so it could be a masterpiece. otherwise, the design could look cheap and didn't worth your time. i think time is the most important aspect above all because you're pricing your creation based on material and time..

and if you didn't have any idea yet about what you're making, practice/make prototype using cheap materials and if you liked the result, make another with your expensive materials. store your expensive beads if you haven't got any idea what to make yet. don't rush it so you won't regret it :)

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Spider@5 wrote
on Jan 21, 2009 9:56 AM

 Thank you Popnicute!

I have more questions.

If  I start with wire metals until i am confident to use a more expensive metal, wouldn't I encounter problems like tarnishing?

If I sell/give someone something that will stain their skin what do I do? Should I explain to them that it will happen and give them tips on how to clean the metal? Should i keep quiet as it is well known that cheaper metals will stain the skin? Do most people realise that when they buy something that is not made of, say, gold? Would they come back to me with complaints?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.:o)

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Hannah@44 wrote
on Jan 21, 2009 10:20 AM

Good questions, Spider.  Sterling silver will always tarnish- no matter if it's beads or wire.  You can store it with tarnish reducing agents, but eventually, it will tarnish and need polishing.  Fine (pure) silver will take infinitely longer to tarnish- if it ever does, and argentium silver is suposed to be tarnish resistant.

If you use another metal, like copper or nickel, yes it may discolor the wearer's skin.  That said, it doesn't seem to be stopping people from buying it.  There are ways that MAY work to reduce the problem- coating the metal with clear nail polish or laquer may help.  I don't think that niobium will discolor anyone.  You should also know that like silver, most metals will tarnish.  The cheaper the metal, the less there is that you can do about it......

When you sell your work, honesty is always the best policy.  Tell your customers what materials you use, and promise them that if they encounter any problems with your product, that you will be happy to fix or replace it (but if you know there is a problem with the materials, don't use them!).  I have found that my customers usually ask what kinds of metal I use.  You will also find that, in general, if your prices are low, people think you are using cheap metal.  If your price is high, they assume that it's real.  If you price low, and tell them that it's real, they are plesantly surprised (and occasionally disbelieving).  But always be honest, and always be willing to make your customer happy (and be nice about it).

If a customer complains, always try to make it right- occasionally the materials we use do break, chip, fade, etc.  Quality is not always perfect.  I always apologize, explain the problem (and thank them for bringing it to my attention, because that way I know which of my vendors is sending me the quality that I expect).  Then I offer to restring with a new bead or exchange the item.  Sometimes there is nothing that you can do except offer a refund- but that's business. 

Hope this helps.



Hannah Anbar


Anbeads, LLC

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Spider@5 wrote
on Jan 21, 2009 12:05 PM

 Thank you very much Hannah.Big Smile

Thank you you all. lots of very useful topics to think about!

on Jan 24, 2009 12:51 PM

Don't forget as well that you can always use a little splash of precious metals-a couple of silver spacers here and there.  You can get a lot of impact with just a few well-placed beads, and it doesn't have to break the bank.

I agree also that you don't have to have all expensive beads.  Sometimes that is nice to do, but just because a bead is inexpensive doesn't mean it's crappy.  Of course you wouldn't put lapis with plastic beads, but adding some pretty glass druk beads between them could look just fine, and druks are only pennies apiece.

The key is to use the best materials you can afford, and be honest with your clients as mentioned above.  As you start to make some money, then you can buy even better things.


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stamparrot wrote
on Mar 20, 2009 10:44 AM

 I will admit - I AM a bead snob and tend to want to use what I call "the good stuff" together in the same design.  These pieces usually appeal to a more high end customer who has more disposable income.

Then, I also make designs using less expensive materials, such as pewter clasps, beads and findings so I can cover a lower end price range as well.  That way, no matter what a customer's budget is, I can offer something that is appealing AND affordable.

One thing I never hear anyone talk about when discussing the lower-priced metals (brass, copper, etc.) is how well those materials wear over time (tarnishing, etc.) and how they affect designers (like me) and customers who have metal allergies.

I've stayed away from these materials for just that reason although I do like the look of them in designs.

Does anyone have any feedback on the wearability or allergy issues on some of these materials?


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MelindaB@14 wrote
on Mar 20, 2009 11:30 AM

Hi Spider ~ You may want to read today's (3/20) Blog "Are You A Bead Snob?".  It has many interesting replies to the initial post so you can see what others are thinking about your question of mixing expensive with cheap.  Good Luck & Have a Fantastic 1st Day of SpringCool

MelindaB ~ Juneau, Alaska USA

When you dream ... what are you wearing?

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's about Learning to Dance in the rain!

Authors UNKNOWNEmbarrassed

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on Mar 20, 2009 11:32 AM

Hi KJ,

Have you read Jean Campbell's post on metal allergies?

Lots of great comments on the post too, from other readers.


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Littlebird wrote
on Mar 22, 2009 5:27 AM

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I often mix more expensive beads with cheaper ones. I never use plastic.....but I will mix semi-precious with glass. For me, it's more about the color and the design than whether or not the beads are of equal price or quality. Also, since I'm a newbie beader, I rarely use sterling for anything yet. (except I have gotten some sterling pieces from some of my Chinese sellers on ebay) I do try to mostly use silver or gold plated though, just because I found that those seem to look better than some of the cheaper metals. For example, I hate that dark, dull color of some plain old base metals. I like the brighter, shinier color of the silver and gold plated. I just think it looks better and more expensive. Although, I do like the antiqued look of some metals, but I haven't done any old fashioned looking pieces yet that would require me to use that and I've only done one copper piece so far.

I think that once I get further along and better at this, I will eventually make some high end pieces that use only expensive metals. But for now, I've got to watch my budget.

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on Mar 22, 2009 11:44 AM

 Robin, I don't think you're in as small a minority as you might think.  I have become a bead snob and won't use plastics or resins in my jewelry either.  And I also will combine good quality glass with crystals (Swarovski only!) and stones.  I won't scrimp on the wire or the crimps, but I do prefer silver plated because it seems to tarnish less than sterling.  I'm with you too on the preference of the shine of metals, gold, silver and copper especially.  But, I think I am getting into the look of brass because I (along with many others here) participated in Scarlett's first Use the Muse challenge/competition.  It was a huge challenge for me since I'm a self-described simple stringer and only just branching into off-loom weaving (I used to do loomed weaving many many years ago), but I've not yet trained myself in wireworking or metal-working.  If you think you'd like to get involved in brass, Scarlett will be having her next Muse challenge in April sometime, be on the lookout for her notice.  And, if you want inspiration, be on the lookout for her announcement of the winners; that's when we'll all be able to share our creations with everyone else.  Anticipation......

 At my son's lacrosse game yesterday, I had an AHA moment -- I wore a blouse that I had gotten through marching band, a red scoop-neck, long-sleeved blouse with the word "Patriots" in blingy crystals across the front (don't know if you've seen some of my other posts, his H.S. is the Patriots and their colors are red, white & blue).  One of the other lacrosse moms (who isn't a band mom) was ooohing/ahhing over it and I realized that it perfectly describes my preferences -- I'm a bright/bold-colors blingy Patriot!

 Dawn  Cool

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