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Canadian suppliers?

I’ll start off by saying that Rio Grande has been just fantastic.
Great customer service. However, shortly after I got my first order,
I received a bill from Purolator for duty which they had paid on the
shipment, which if I understand correctly was entirely covered under
the North American Free Trade Agreement. The bill washed their hands
of responsibility if I felt the duty was wrongfully charged, and
they couldn’t even be bothered to get my name right. Suffice to say
that I refuse to do business with Purolator ever again. Ever.

The folks at Rio Grande tell me this duty fiasco is a common
complaint, and that Canada Post has contracted Purolator for customs
matters, so there’s no escaping them and their hidden fee. I really
like Rio Grande, but I can’t afford to be throwing money out the
window that way. I also feel I’d be selling out my principles if I
just accepted that this is how it’s going to be, and allowed a large
corporation to milk me.

So, is there a good Canadian source for findings, gems, raw
materials, tools, and especially packing materials?

Read also:

[Orchid] Canadian Tool Suppliers

[Orchid] Non US Suppliers

Michael Balls

So, is there a good Canadian source for findings, gems, raw
materials, tools, and especially packing materials? 

Hello Michael,

Welcome to The Quest. I’ve gone through this process myself and must
say that I always found it rather odd that there’s Canada, within a
stone’s throw of the US, and yet the reality is that it’s not easy to
find good suppliers. They do exist but unfortunately their web
presence is somewhat … underwhelming so that just makes everything

That said, there’s no doubt that this Orchid post

covers a lot of the bases. In particular I’d recommend Habsons
( and Gesswein ( If Habsons is
convenient for you (they have stores in Vancouver and Seattle) I’d
give them my highest recommendation. Among other things they were
very understanding when I felt I had to return inferior quality items
a couple times. And FWIW I believe that they’re well stocked when it
comes to packaging materials which was one of the things you
specifically mentioned.

Frankly one of the real advantages is that Habsons doesn’t just order
out of the Grobet catalogue which is what a lot of Canadian places
do. Gesswein Canada’s catalog is entirely their own and I’ve also
ordered from them a few times. Things took a little while 'cause they
had to bring most of my stuff in from the States. That did mean though
that they took care of the import stuff which was a relief.

Imperial Smelting ( is great for metals supply
once you locate an office and get set up with them. They wanted a
copy of my driver’s licence before I ordered, and I think they ran a
credit check on me even though my business was always cash, but once
that was done it was fast, smooth, accurate, reliable service all the
way. Usually less than 3-day turn-around on special orders if I
dropped by their office to pick stuff up. I was very happy with them.

If I were you I’d be very cautious with both Lacy West and I Shor
Canada (aka Eisinger Enterprises?). The latter apparently ripped off
their name from the real Shor International (
or something shady like that and there has been a long-standing issue
between them.

Lacy West in Vancouver is a sadder story because I think those guys
are trying but I attempted to order various stuff from them for over
a year and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Substitutions
made without asking me, things taking months to arrive when they’d
promised it would be weeks (this happened more than once), unannounced
cancellations followed by explanations like “you don’t need that
anyway”, etc, etc, etc. Maybe it was just me, maybe I was unlucky,
whatever. That’s my story with them and you can take it for what it’s
worth. They have a shop in Vancouver if you’d care to check them out
for yourself. There’s also Lacy and Company in TO (
–don’t know if there’s a connection-- which I have no personal
experience with.

Also in Vancouver is (was?) Page and Wilson. I understand that
decades ago they were the place but I think they’ve fallen on hard
times. They don’t have a website that I know of but if you’ve got the
time they’re worth a visit. Very old school but well stocked in most

What I think it really comes down to is what city you’re in or have
access to. I was in Vancouver so that’s what I know best. I have no
doubt that the situation is better in TO and Montreal once you track
down the right names.

In the end I also ordered a bunch of stuff from the US --Rio Grande,
Gesswein, Shor, Contenti, etc-- because sometimes that’s just what
you have to do. You can avoid the Purolator nightmare by specifying a
courier, such as Fedex or DHL, but you’re going to end up paying
pretty much the same if not slightly more going that route. I often
did choose to pay extra in order to avoid getting violated by
Purolator’s loathsome tactics.

Another option if you live near the border is to get a US post box
and bring the stuff across the border yourself. No doubt you’ve heard
about this before but it really works! You’ll have to pay your duties
etc at the border but at least they won’t get hiked up on you thanks
to Purolator’s “special” service. In fact my experience is that the
border people often seem to respect the Free Trade Agreement a lot
more than Canada Post does and so the actual duties one pays are both
less and less frequent. This can go a long way to offsetting the cost
of your US mailbox and your gas to drive down and pick stuff up.
Obviously this isn’t a viable option for everyone but if you live near
the border or cross over frequently it’s worth consideration.

Trevor F.

Michael Maybe you should check with customs and excise people to make
sure that you were in fact not correctly charged. The NAFA agreement
does not protect against everything. All gemstones and jewellery are
subject to a 10% excise tax. Plus everthiing is still subject to GST.
If you are buying tools and depending on the province, sales tax will


Hello there,

Sorry for the “all” response – I usually respond to individuals
directly, but I don’t have an email address for Michael.

I’m so sorry for the inconvenience Michael. We will immediately
evaluate this situation and see what we can do to manage it
differently. I was unaware of the issue occurring until I saw this
post. We so enjoy serving our Canadian customers, and we certainly
don’t want buying from us to turn into a hassle.

Best regards,
Andrea Hill
The Bell Group (Rio Grande, Neutec/USA, WestCast, Sonic Mill)

Kens Gems Supplies Inc.
Bay 18
2219 35th Avenue N.E.

Great store in Calgary for tools’ supplies, gems and finding.
Though I have only purchased supplies and tools from Ken I found
friendly and excellent service.


In Toronto you have Lacy & Co., Ltd., 55 Queen St E, 416-366-7626.
They are as close to a full service distributor that you will find in
Canada. Good service, nice people.


Other suppliers you can try are:

Canada Beading supply

Nature’s Expression

Page and Wilson

Rock & Gem Shop (no web page) 780-452-3704 Also try these, who I
have purchased from:

John Bead Corp. (wholesale only)

Tyson’s Fine Minerals (a little
expensive, but quality stock)

Bead Closet

Green’s Rock & Lapidary

Mountain Gems (Michael
cuts a lot of great cabochons)

Capilano Rock & Gem (no web page, but have catalogue and they sell
Beads, and tools and findings at great prices. Retail and Wholesale)
(604) 987-5311

Bedrock Supply Ltd (no web page) 780-434-2040

Hope these help
Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady)
K.I.S. Creations
May your gems always sparkle.

Thanks to everyone for the advice on this. Things have gotten a
little better straightened out, and apparently the taxes charged
were justified. Maybe. Nobody seems to have the same take on how
duty works. All the same, I’ll be looking into the mentioned
resources, and triple checking my delivery options from here on in.