FAQ: Where Do You Get Your Materials/How to Navigate a Bead Show

I go to the International Gem and Jewelry Show at the San Mateo Expo center every time it is in town to get fabulous beads for Peggy Li Creations Handmade Jewelry. This November 27-29th you can browse for amazing finished jewelry as well as for everything you need to make your own! These large shows can be very overwhelming for the first-time visitor. Here are a few tips and hints for making the most of your visit if you are looking for jewelry making supplies.

1) Sign up for the event mailing list. They will send coupons and brochures previewing the exhibitors that will be attending the show.

2) Dress comfortably -- you'll be on your feet for potentially a few hours!

3) Bring a snack and water with you, the only concessions are your basic greasy/soda offerings.

4) Bring a shopping list, set a budget for yourself and walk the whole floor! The best way to stay focused is to have an idea of what you are looking for and to walk the whole floor before making a purchase decision. Many vendors will carry the same supplies at different prices!

5) If you have a resale license, you can enter the wholesale area at the back of the venue. Bring a copy since you will get great wholesale deals and exclusive vendors in the back!

6) If you are trying to match stones or other materials, bring a sample with you so there can be no question about what you want to get.

7) Pick up business cards or catalogs from your favorite vendors so you can find them again next time!

8) Get your hand stamped at the door if you want to exit and reenter later. They also often hand out free passes for the rest of the weekend at the exit, so be sure to grab one.

9) When in doubt, don't buy. If you're not an expert in the materials you are looking at and you feel pressured to buy something, go home and do research and sleep on it, or if you do buy, ask whether there is a return policy (often there isn't). There's always going to be some cool supplies you wish you could get, but put it on the list for next time rather than have buyers remorse!

10) When you get home, write down notes on your favorite vendors, including what you bought from them and the prices.

Shows like this one can be a fantastic resource for the jewelry maker. If you follow these tips, you'll have more time to focus on your creative inspiration while you're there! Have fun and see you there!

Do you have other tips? Feel free to add them as a comment, below!


Unknown said...

Hi Peggy,
I'm looking to get some grade A,AA, and maybe AAA (if I can afford AAA!) briolettes....but there are so many vendors and such disparity in pricing for stones of this quality at the Intergem San Mateo show......can you recommend some vendors you trust /have purchased from and been happy with that have this quality of gemstones at fair prices? I prefer to start with someone that someone else I know has been happy with...and I trust your recommendations..your gemstones are beautiful! Thanks much!

plcpeggy said...


I usually stick w/the wholesale area in the back, and I love Earthstone and Prijems. Their quality is excellent and consistent and they work with the top designers in the biz. Of course, you *will* pay higher prices for this. But the consistency and the fact you can use most, if not all, the gems on strand is great. If you are in the front retail section, check out King's Road Beads. Their sales folks are a little pushy, but they have a wide selection of items and do offer wholesale accounts.

If you are just starting out and can't afford to splurge on these vendors, there are awesome Swarovski crystal alternatives these days.

It just depends on your design goals and customers -- sometimes there are gems I love, but I don't think my customers will appreciate/understand the higher cost, so I leave them on the table.

good luck,

Kitty said...

OHH YESS!! The International Gem and Jewelry has things you won't find at those prices ANY where else, and you get to see before you buy. It travels thru Seattle about 3 or 4 times a year and has some thing for every body. You can sign up at their web site for notification when it will be in your area.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much Peggy....I will check out those 3 vendors....really appreciate you sharing them with me...and am looking to the upcoming San Mateo show! All the best to you!