MrBead & Retail & Wholesale Bead Supplies from

Buying Beads

Dear Bead Customer,

You received this newsletter because you opted after a past purchase, but should you wish to be taken off the mailing list, just click the link at the bottom. This month's theme is buying beads. Scroll down, or click one of the links below on the html version to go to a certain section. If you have any suggestions for the future, please e-mail me at

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Beads used to be Money!
Buying Beads by Size
Buying Beads by Material
Top Ten Tips Buying Beads Online
Reasons for Buying Beads
What's a Fair Price?
Buying Wholesale
Special Offer

Beads used to be Money
For thousands of years, beads have played an important role throughout every corner of the globe. They have been used as a medium of trade, as talismans, as jewelry, as status symbols, and for religion. Beads can be found almost as far back in history as humans themselves. The oldest known beads were from the Neanderthal people, dating back to around 38,000 BC in France. These were made from animal teeth and bone. Beads serve as capsules of culture, history, and technology. It is difficult to imagine counting without numbers, but until numbers were invented, counting devices were used for everyday calculations. Like 300 BC counting boards and the Chinese abacus from around 1200 A.D.

Buying Beads by Size
Buying beads can be very difficult & with hundreds-of-thousands of different materials, sizes, shapes, colors, and prices.

Seed beads range from size 1mm to 3mm or 11/0. The most common seed beads are Chinese, Czech, and Japanese. Czech beads are very traditional, sold on hanks, are mostly round and can be uneven. Japanese seed beads are more uniform, come in many different colors and are usually sold loose in bags or tubes. Remember that 1,000 (or even 4,000) seed beads will come in only a small bag & don't expect them larger than they are! However, these tiny beads can be very tricky to make, so are only a little cheaper than bigger beads.

Larger beads are sold either loose or in strands. Buy strands if you want the best quality and uniformity of holes & they will hang better on a necklace. However, loose beads are great if you want a lot cheaply for a large project or for many different works. Invest in a bead measure, as the inexperienced can often overestimate bead sizes. If buying by the strand, just divide the length by the bead size to tell how many there will be. For example a (16-inch) 400mm strand will have about 50 beads of 8mm & 400 divided by 8. Beads over 14mm are considered large and can weigh a lot to post, so expect more shipping.

Metal beads come in all shapes and sizes - silver, gold, copper, round, square, etc. Popular metal beads include the Balinese Beads, which are made in Bali and are usually of sterling silver, gold or gold plated sterling. Also popular are the "liquid silver" and "liquid gold" beads: tiny tubes made of metal, usually strung together which drape beautifully.

Lampwork beads are most often used as jewelry centerpieces. Creatively made with a torch or in a kiln, these are painstakingly developed and executed by glassmaking professional. Judge the price of lampwork according to the complexity of the finished bead. Comparing the cost of beads, these are among the cheapest considering the production work.

Buying Beads by Material
Semi-precious stone beads should be studied before buying. Search online or get a good book on minerals and semi-precious stones - well worth the investment. Beads can be compared as to treatment. Some treatments are perfectly acceptable such as heating the stone to enhance its color. Turquoise can vary dramatically in price depending on it's treatment. Advance study and a reputable dealer are your best insurance. Dying of pearls, coral and jade is usual and considered acceptable these days. The color shouldn't come off.

Pearls are usually freshwater cultured, unless they cost US$50 to $100 or more a strand. Except for plastic and faux pearls of course. Cultured means they are 100% natural, but are "farmed" with the help of man, rather than growing in the sea. Expect to find irregular sizes, shapes, and grooving in these pearls. Otherwise they won't be genuine, unless very expensive. Size quoted by the seller is the largest in the strand & this means that only a few in the strand will be that size.

Top Ten Tips when Buying Beads Online
1. Keep cool. Don't get caught up in the excitement - know your limits. It's easy to get into a bidding war and end up paying more than an item is worth. When an auction closes at five times the original asking price, dealers feel embarrassed.

2. Make sure that the item you are bidding for is what you want. Always be sure you know the size, especially if a picture is enlarged. Don't assume it is a certain size, then when it arrives in the mail the 'necklace' is suddenly a bracelet for a cat! And don't buy a strand of beads if you assume you would receive a ready-made necklace.

3. Use your head. Don't be naive reading descriptions - never take words at face value. Like "This fabulous bead is so hard to describe, the picture speaks for itself!". "Exquisite" beads are everywhere, and every other item is "unique." Enter the word "unique" in the search box and its overuse reduces it to meaninglessness. Misinformation is another problem. More sellers misrepresent out of ignorance than by deceit, but it helps to know something yourself and not just trust without question. "Antique" is identified as by U.S. customs laws as being at least 100 years old. Beads from the 1960s are not antique. Occasionally, a little research brings a bargain. You might spot a rare old African tribal necklace being sold as a trinket from Thailand, though more likely you would be fooled the other way round.

4. Search the Web. Look for similar items and determine what a fair price is. Sometimes dealers will have the same items on their web sites for less than you'd pay if you were competing with other bidders, or the other way round. Look at the sellers other auctions. Keep track of many like items before placing your bid, compare over different auction sites.

5. Check what other buyers have said about the seller and examine any negative feedback. If there are unhappy customers, or if the seller presents a nasty defense, be wary.

6. Bid just before the auction ends, if possible. Buyers like to outbid each other in the final moments. This is referred to as "sniping," although is perfectly legitimate. It's very frustrating to have someone "steal" the item out from under you in the last seconds. Unless you have the time to monitor the close of every auction in which you have a bid, this will happen sometimes. A sniper program like "esnipe" at enable you to outbid someone at the last minute. However, don't feel guilty about sniping, it's not really stealing, the item doesn't being to your competing bidders.

7. Can you make a return? You should be able to receive a refund on items that don't live up to their promise or match their description. However, don't expect to be refunded shipping or a handling fee to cover the seller's expenses. Some dealers don't accept returns, but they have to realize you're buying from a small picture only. If you buy a computer or a car on the web, you probably have a good idea of what you're looking at - not necessarily so with beads. Buying online is like a catalog sale, and catalog vendors always offer a no questions return policy. A good dealer knows that pleased customers will bring extra sales that will more than cover the cost of returns.

8. Good auction etiquette. There are some things you can do to make things easier for the vendors and foster a good relationship. When you win an auction, the dealer will e-mail you the item number(s), always ensure this is quoted with your mailing address and payment. Sellers hate spending hours doing detective work or guessing which beads goes to whom. Don't just rely on Paypal to inform this for you. Some dealers with many auctions take a few days to contact all their buyers. Unreasonable e-mails demanding a total just slows down the process. And some sellers offer a checkout like MarketWorks that automatically adds all your wins including combined shipping - saving you a lot of time.

9. Pay well. Always pay as quickly as possible. If you have not dealt with the seller before, you may have to wait for your check to clear. And if you are using snail-mail to pay international purchases, allow at least 14-days just for your payment to arrive. US sellers in many states have to collect sales tax for their resale license. They don't get a commission on this and have to pay penalties for mistakes in collecting these taxes & so don't try to evade. Same with VAT in Europe.

10. Watch Shipping Costs. Some sellers will try to rip you off with shipping, especially from China, so check before you bid. However, be aware that international airmail is expensive, so expect to pay reasonable shipping & handling fee. Under US$10 for a small order is OK, over $20 is scandalous. If you order a lot from abroad, airmail doesn't come cheap - beads are heavy! Allow a reasonable time for your item to arrive before you complain. Ten days from within your own country, or twenty-days from abroad.

Ten Reasons for Buying Beads at all
1. Beady eyes keep a happy mind & it's a great hobby. Cheaper than drugs and more fun than psychiatric care!
2. Buying beads is not immoral, illegal or fattening. It calms the nerves, gratifies the soul and makes us feel good.
3. To make money or investment.
4. A bead keeps without refrigeration. You don't have to cook it to enjoy it, and it never needs feeding, changing, or walking.
5. Buying beads keeps our economy going. It is our patriotic duty to support bead stores.
6. Beads are a proven aphrodisiac.
7. Beads don't argue or get crabby. Like women and wine: beads get better with age.
8. Bags and tubes of beads tightly packed make an excellent insulation for the home.
9. At any moment the employees of a bead factory might go on strike and limit the availability.
10. We are participating in a contest. The one with the most beads wins.

What's a Fair Price for Beads?
What are beads worth? On eBay, most buyers are looking for a bargain, but what's a fair price? Machine-made bead are extremely cheap to manufacture. Especially when most are made in low-income countries too. So why do beads cost so much at retail? The answer is labor. The most expensive part of any product is the labor that goes into it, not just the time of the factory workers but of all the other people involved. Four or five middlemen may handle your beads between the factory and you: the manufacturer, the exporter, the importer, the wholesaler, the retailer, and two or three shippers. Each middleman has labor costs. Transportation and storage don't come cheap.

At MrBead your beads are brought in a large Chinese city from a wholesaler who buys them from another wholesaler in the outskirts who gets them from the factory. They then go by truck to Hong Kong where they are stored and packed, and then travel by air to your country and by road to your door. Unless you buy from our UK auctions, in which case they are shipped from Hong Kong to Britain to be resorted and repacked before mailing to you. Sounds like a lot of work, and it is!

Out of a bead merchants stock, only a few types of beads sell well, the rest gather dust taking years to recover their costs. Other beads get lost, damaged, or go out of style quickly. And often the merchant can't restock his top sellers because the wholesalers have run out too.

Then there's the cost of retailing. Shop rents and taxes are crippling, occurring throughout the off season and holidays. Online selling is cheaper, but a web store with out visitors is useless. Hits cost money. Marketing and advertising is a substantial cost of your beads. Auctions like eBay cost around 10% of the retail price, and that's before the expense of getting paid. Paypay, credit cards, and bounced checks are expensive.

Buying Beads Wholesale
Many people think wholesalers make most of their money from sales to big customers who spend a lot of money. The fact is, most bead wholesalers have many customers who spend small amounts of money. Most wholesalers are also retailers and will charge high prices for small quantities, so walking into a wholesale shop doesn't guarantee low prices. To get cheap, you have to buy a lot, and even then you won't get the best prices unless you spend thousands of dollars.

There's also a negative side to dealing with wholesalers. Many wholesalers have a general attitude that makes you feel a nuisance unless you're spending thousands. They'll get irritated if you haggle on the price for small orders, despite haggling being part of the wholesale game. They can also get mad when you make returns.

However, you can make substantial savings buying larger quantities of beads wholesale. Think ahead and plan what beads you will need. Buy as much as you can afford to keep the unit cost down. Pool with friends. And you can always auction what you don't use on eBay. Many wholesalers will even let you use their pictures and copy to sell online.

A few Wholesale Bead Buying Tips
1. If possible, buy at least $100 a time. The more money you spend, the more you save and the they'll take you seriously.
2. In America, get a tax ID number to save paying taxes on your purchases. Makes you look like a serious customer too.
3. Look at the beads under bright light & many defects are not noticeable in dim light. Except for seed beads, don't buy beads that are sealed in plastic without opening to examine the beads inside. Many defects can't be seen through the bag.
5. Check the prices they put down on the invoice very carefully. If they over-charge you (which is common), it's much better to say now than later. Also, if you are buying beads on your lunch hour, don't leave the order with them to total up later & there could be problems.
6. Every time you buy beads, note the size, style, price and wholesaler, and bring this list with you when you shop. If they charged you $30 for a bag of beads two months ago, and this month it costs $36 for the same beads, your questioning could save you a lot of money.
7. Be friendly but otherwise unemotional. Don't get angry or defensive if they don't give you the price you want or a refund. You can't expect the same level of service buying wholesale as you can retail. It helps to have a sense of humor.
8. In conclusion: do your homework before buying wholesale to get the best deal. Know what you want and for what price.

Special Wholesale Offer!
Beat our normal wholesale discount and enjoy 20% off all order over $100 (before shipping) in our MrBead bead store, just key in "buying" at the checkout (without the inverted commas) and click "Redeem Coupon".

Offer valid until the end of August only - so act now! Only for use in our store at the checkout and not valid with any other offers.

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