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Affordable semi-precious material

I’ve pretty much decided that Fire Mountain is off my list of
potential suppliers. I know you “get what you pay for”, but what
I’m looking for is NOT cheap junk, which FM seems to have a
preponderance of, but moderately priced precious and semi-precious
gems, beads, and cabs that I can use to “practice” on while I bring
my skills back up to par before I start spending money on the “good
stuff”, which I would, at this point, likely not be able to do
justice to without more practice.

It’s a fine line to walk, to be able to have some moderately priced
stuff without slipping over the edge and getting a reputation for
making junk jewelry, or going too far the other way and ending up
offering stuff for sale at prices higher than my current level of
skills warrant simply because the materials themselves are too
costly (in relation to my skill-level and design abilities).

I’ll check out some of the links other’s have posted, and I’m surely
interested in hearing about other reputable suppliers. There’s a
rockhound show in Richmond, Indiana I think in March, and since I
have relatives there, I might be able to attend that one. I’m not
sure when/if there’s going to be anything else around here, but I’ll
keep an eye peeled. I’m about 3 to 4 hours from St. Louis, and
about 6 hours from Kansas City; you’d think there’d be something in
ONE of those places sometime this summer!