Convenient Gem Material Storage

I’m looking for a convenient (and cheap) way to organize and store
my gems and gem materials, and I’m hoping somebody has a good
solution. I have them in Riker mounts now, but would much rather
have shallow drawers. A map chest would be about right, but I don’t
need a nice piece of furniture, and don’t want to pay "furniture"
prices.I also don’t have woodworking skills (or time) to build
something. Suggestions?


You could do what most dealers do and use parcel papers


I store mine in jewelry drawers with display inserts. I bought those
from Rio Grandee. They are not cheap, but not terribly expensive
either. They are the size of standard trays but are actually drawer
systems. If you have their 2006 display catalog, they are on page
160, and I purchased the 5 drawer, which fit very neatly on a shelf
and you can stack and label them. Also the choice of inserts is
wonderful, because you can subdivide them any way you need to. If
you don’t have the catalog, just send me an email off list and I’ll
be glad to scan it for you and email.

By the way, your work is fantastic! I wish I knew about the classes
when I lived in NYC… I found out about them after I moved to the
countryside :slight_smile: Do you still teach?


Vera Battemarco

I have a lot of plastic drawers. A recent visitor described my studio
as having the most plastic drawers she’d ever seen outside of The
Container Store. I just counted, I have 63.

Plus I have some of those plastic doo hikeys they sell to sort
embroidery floss. Plastic, flip top, many sections inside. I once got
a set of them – four I think in a cool black plastic thing with mini
shelves that they slide in and out of. Found it at a hardware store.
Never seen 'em again. When I saw one at a second hand store, I
snapped it up. Now I have the two, and they connect for stacking.

I use them for beads and flex shaft mandrels and wheels.

Oops. missed some drawers. Okay I have 77 plastic drawers. (I’m
counting the drawers themselves, not the larger units of 2 or 3
drawers in one holder.)


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


Arizona Case can make you custom trays for holding jewelry and
They could be sized to fit into a cabinet/storage unit
that you already have.

Steve Brixner.

Noel and tutti-

I always enjoy your posts. Several years ago, I bought two stainless
steel rollaways (like the Craftsmen series at Sears) at Costco. Mine
have 11 drawers each, 7 of which are narrow and perfect for
I live in a one-bedroom apartment and I have them in my
bedroom. I find them beautiful.

They were expensive (for some reason, they had a special on them that
day and I paid around $399 for each one) but they’re forever and if I
am fortunate enough to move to a larger space or find a studio,
they’ll be perfect there also.


Hi Noel,

To organize and store my stones/gems, I appropriated some of my
hubby’s translucent plastic fishing lure boxes. They have
compartments and a snap closure lid. Four boxes come in a stackable
plastic case, and each box slides out. Very portable too. These are
made by Plano Molding Company. Probably available from a tackle

Here’s the webpage for Plano Molding Company “storage racks” [Click StowAway Racks]

No association with the company, etc. Just like their product.

Judy in Kansas where temps are supposed to be 75F tomorrow!! Guess where
my hubby is… on the lake.

Hi Noel

Try your local Hardware store and look for sales on the metal boxes
full of plastic drawers with removable dividers. These are used to
store nuts & bolts and such. I have 3 or 4 of them and one is full of
just beads. They are nice also because the removable dividers allow
one to adjust each drawer differently for different size objects.
Most of them cost around $20 here in Canada.

Karen Bahr
Karen’s Artworx

You could use an old spool box/ cabinet. Usually can be found at
used furniture places or 2nd hand shops. They stack nicely also.

Barbara Smith McLaughlin - Handcrafted Fine Jewelry

Hey Noel,

I got some old dental chests. It has 2 deep drawers @ bottom and
several shallow drawers like you’ve described. Hope this helps, Amy

hi Noel;

It seems fishermen have mighty sophisticated (and big) tackle boxes.
They’re not aesthetically appealing but they have shallow containers
and hold a lot of stuff.

Best Regards,
Kim Starbard


In a lot of cities you can get flat files/map files at reasonable
prices from used office furniture stores or classified ads. For new
flat files – I like the DICKBLICK ones – they are not cheap but
the unfinished birch ones cost less than most – (I never “finished”
mine and they still look fine after some years.) (Medium 5-Drawer
File/24" ~ 36" is in the low $400s. )

Into these large flat drawers I put shallow aluminum and plastic
containers from American Scientific surplus (

  • I use the containers without their lids so I when I open the large
    flat drawers I can SEE all my gemstone beads organized by color. . I
    also use sets of plastic drawers from Container Store (or Target) for
    some items, but they are so much smaller and for me not as useful
    since I can’t see as much at one time.

Hope to hear other’s ideas for storage… I especially need ideas for
storing finished items!


By the way, your work is fantastic! I wish I knew about the classes
when I lived in NYC.... I found out about them after I moved to the
countryside :) Do you still teach? 

Thanks, Vera! I’m not sure what classes you mean-- I’m in Chicago,
not NYC, and, yes, I still teach.


I find the most durable and least expensive tackle boxes in the
Wal-Mart fishing department. I have a wall of cabinets behind my work
surface. The lure boxes (without the top compartment) fit perfectly
on their side on each shelf. I use them as “drawers” when they are in
the cabinet, and they are easy to remove and take with me in
situations where I need to take the gems with me.

As far as the padding is concerned, you can buy sheets of cotton
and/or foam padding at a Joann’s / craft stores.

Hi, Elaine,

Where do you buy your plastic drawers?


Hi Noel,

This idea isn’t pretty…you could go to a restaurant supply house
and buy a used proofing rack (for baking) and the metal trays that
go in it. These racks are about 4’-5’ high with wheels, so can easily
roll it out of the way. I haven’t tried this, but it seems like it
might work.


Both Micheals and Harbor Freight carry various sizes of hinged
plastic boxes with internal dividers, boxes can be labled and
stacked on a shelf or drawer. The boxes that I use are sold as
embroidery floss boxes, they each have 16 compartments, each about 1
1/2 " square. Cost is usually under $2 each, less on sale. You can
pad the compartment for specimens or pour in the stones in bulk for
the spring line.

Louise Pass

check out the container store… lots of options:


I store all my lapidary rough (that is small enough) in clear
plastic food containers with lids - they are microwaveable clear
plastic (ptfe I think) and come in cartons of 250 for the equivalent
of 30USD. Stacked on shelving they look ok and I can see whats in
them! Check out catering industry suppliers, anything intended to be
disposable is going to be cheap - my favourite sort of price!

Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England

Tel: 01229 584023

Hi all,

I’m a big fan of the place Jesse mentioned…
I bought a pine “lingerie chest” at an unfinished furniture store,
(inexpensive) with nice deep drawers. The clear plastic boxes that
the container store carries fit in the drawers perfectly in stacks.
They are hard plastic and absolutely clear so you can really see
what you have! They’re great for storing supplies as well as
transporting finished pieces to shows etc. They’d work on the
restaurant pastry rack that someone mentioned, on the big cookie
trays… Oh no…now I want MORE!