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Semi-Precious Beads and Jewelry: Beading Q And A (9/5/2011)

2011 September 5

Donna asks…

Semi-Precious Beads

Semi-Precious Beads

What are important terms that a jewelry beader should know?

What exactly is semi-precious jewelry?

Where can I learn the names of beads, the colors, the tools, names of the materials being used.

How do you know if it’s silver, or silver plated and vice versa with gold?

How do you know the difference and how can you tell what kind of silver it is, if it’s pewter, if it’s a metal etc?

I really need to learn this stuff.

BeadGal answers:

Some of this is experience, of course.

Semi-precious are gemstones like amethyst, garnet, agate, quartz, etc.; precious would be diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire. There’s a little give & take in there, as some are suggesting tanzinite should be moved into the precious side, and a good clear, near flawless amethyst can cost more than the worst ruby.

Pick up a copy of Bead Style magazine (or maybe Bead & Button); they have a glossary in the back of every issue. I’m still learning the terms for the seed beads & I’ve been doing this for years now. There are basic beading books (not at home, or I could give you a few titles) that give you that information as well.

When you buy in the store, they should be able to tell you what you’re buying. I don’t know about buying 2nd hand & ID’ing genuine gold & silver; I have learned to ID glass from good plastic, however it can be harder than it sounds sometimes. Pewter tends to be duller than silver, even when polished.

If you’re near a good bead/craft store, go in and talk with them. Most have classes that you can enroll in, but the ones by me have been good about giving me basic instruction with individual questions. (What’s the best way to close this off? Can you show me how?) They might be able to help you with the identification issues, too.
Always make sure you ask what you’re buying.

Fire Mountain Gems online is a good source, too–very reputable.

Carol asks…

Should I buy beads in Michaels?

Just started jewelry making and not very good in the area of stones and prices. Should I buy any semi-precious stones in Michaels, they have such a nice selection there. I was thinking at least to use weekly 50% coupons.

BeadGal answers:

Other stores also carry a selection of beads and stones. We were in Oklahoma a few weeks back and the local Dollar Tree store had a nice selection. Walmart often has them in the craft section. Other stores you may not even think may carry them do. Check around.

Also check rummage sales and thrift stores for loose stones or old jewelry to take apart. A lot of crafters over buy and just want to unload their extras so keep a eye on sales. Also check to see if there is a Freecycle in your area- it is a computer swap meet where items are given away as long as you are willing to take them.

Laura asks…

Is there any place in San Francisco where I can make myself some nice jewelry?

I don’t mean any cheap, beaded jewelry. I mean stuff with metals and semi-precious gems. Anywhere out here?
Maybe I should mention that I am not rich. I’m not willing to spend a ridiculous amount of money just for a necklace. I would also like to emphasize that I am interested in MAKING my own jewelry. With my own designs. If you could tell me about any studios or something, that’d be great. thanks!

BeadGal answers:

You have one of the finest jewelry schools in the country located on Market in San Francisco–The Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. Understand that learning to make jewelry with metals and gems takes an investment of both time and money.

You can also check our listing of bead stores in california – many of them either have classes, or will be able to help you find classes or local bead and jewelry artists willing to teach you:

California Bead Stores

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