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What are high end expensive beads?

I’m looking to getting high quality, high end beads what type should
I get and where online?

Brian Sommers

Not from Fire Mountain Gems! It’s best to shop in person, but first
do the legwork to learn how each stone should look when it’s
high-end, as beads can lack the characteristics of a good cabochon,
and will almost certainly lack the same of a faceted stone. There are
no shortcuts on this learning curve.


I have to admit. I have been talking myself out of contributing to
this subject but, in the end I just could’nt resist.

If you can avoid using beads do. its is such an investment of
patience, hardwork and a matter of having the commitment to mostly
go through the ugly wait with each and every possible supplier only
to find out that even though they said they could supply the quality
you requested they in fact could’nt. But, you keep jumping through
hoop after hoop hoping that the next one will work out. I have been
searching for more than fifteen years for a supplier that I could
trust to deliver quality beads ina timely fashion and I still
haven’t found the right one yet. If anyone tells you this is an easy
find. they do not know what they are talking about.

Ooooh if it were only a matter of looking on the internet. what a
dream that would be. sadly it just isn’t that simple.

Avoid taking a trip to India which can be a real snake pit if you
dont know where to go or who to trust. Go to the JA show in New
York, there you will find lots and lots of bead suppliers but, the
question is. who do you trust there? They all say they have their
own factories (but they do not), they all say YES to all of your
enquires. you get great samples but, when your order arrives it can
a mess of badly cut dyed pebbles. Do you really know what they are
selling you? Is it really what they say it is? Is it glass,
synthetic or just colored quartz or glass filled ruby? You will have
to find a way to randomly test every order you receive. Most people
say you cant test beads but, I know it can be done. I do it all the
time. GIA New York test beads if you want a small sample of each
order checked.

My advice would be enquire at the GIA stand at the show about how to
approach the vendors. Last time I went I just approached the vendors
in the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) section. Look out for
the sign. Ideally you want to deal with someone who actually has
their own factory. Then you can have them make anything you need.
Ask for proof that that they have their own factory. Tell them you
want to see video proof, a live skype session etc: If they try to
avoid the subject or are not agreeable you will know not to trust
them. Otherwise you are dealing with a middle man (or woman) and the
cost is going to be more expensive and the delivery time is going to
take longer.

I had one guy at JA tell me that the beads I had been buying from a
dealer for years were glass. Oh my God! he had me in such a panic
but, when I had them tested they were genuine. I do not know what he
hoped to achieve by being dishonest. maybe it amused him? or maybe
he was checking me out to see how much I knew about stones. If I
reacted. which I didn’t he might realize that my knowledge was not
up to scratch and that being the case he could sell me glass. Who
knows. it was very upsetting at the time because I had spent many
thousands of dollars over the years with my supplier and I hated the
idea of being taken. Last time I was at JA I counted six vendors
that told me they supplied David Yurman. Dont believe them. they are
just trying to sell themselves to you. Some of the name dropping can
be funny.

As Lorraine said there are no short cuts. And anyone who has been
blessed with the miracle of finding a reliable supplier will have
had to suffer the sweat and tears of time and most likely will not
share that source because they have earned their scars and you have

Sorry to sound so cynical but, as I said at the begining. Avoid
using beads if you possibly can. Remember my words if you choose to
ignore my advice.

Did I mention the other side of the bead industry? The terrible
story of Silica and how it kills so many cutters and polishers in
this industry? Do your best to find an ethical supplier and keep
your conscience clean. If you do not know about the effects of
Silicosis read this

Good luck.

Rio Grand ( has good quality beads. German cut are
much better than Chinese. India has a lot of beautiful faceted
semi-precious beads. You really need to go to a trade show and get

Intergem holds wholesale gem shows. Google them.

Meredith Ott

I suggest you check out Joseph Stachura. They carry a wide variety of
gemstone beads ranging in price from very inexpensive, such as
fluorite, to high end select emerald beads, citrine, etc. etc. Mary
Stachura is very helpful, so contact her about your needs. Alma


We miners, cutters and manufacturers as well of peruvian blue opal
beads. cabs, pendants and .925 sterling for 25+ years and as well
ortiz rhodocrosite, pink opal, azurite malachite /
azurite-malachite-chryscolla, chryscolla, balck jadeite and with
pyrite, blue aragonite, lime green serpentine and much much more.

Most people do not understand premium beads nor prices. Prices for
beads just like cabs or other goods is base on the grade of the
rough and its rarity. At this time as example our bead stocks
generally average 10 years and older strands in all qualities. The
high price of bleu opal beads is based on the fact that blue opal
rough is not available period to cut beads let al;one cabs or
pendants or .925 sterling. When copper prices went through the roof
many years ago miners went to mining copper ore solely as many blue
opal miners were depleted or mined out as well and one can make
millions offa boa toad of copper ore versus ming with the same crew
blue opal.

  1. There is vast shortages of blue opal as it is not being mined or
    in any quantity whatsoever to do beads !!

  2. Cutters get far more money for cabs and pendants in blue opal and
    other stones

  3. Yields are very low to make beads. The very worst of maybe by
    hand 8-10% yield out of a kilo of beads or a max of 80 grams
    assuming you have clean materials without alot of matrix out of 1000
    gram kilo.

  4. If you want premium color, little or no matrix beads, then you
    have to have premium or superior quality rough which is very very
    expensive for this rough as its only 5% or less mined by us miners
    This rough in premium or superior blue opal is very expensive even
    inthe old days.

This is why beads that are premium or superior quality blue opal,
pink opal, etc are very expensive due to the factors above. Why cut
for example top premium chrysoprase or top sugalite natural beads,
etc when less then 5% of the rough is premium. Yields run in cabs
10-40% baed on matrix. Thus why do premium bass from premium
materials when cutters get far more for cabochons, less work and
much greater yields.

I am available for lectures-presentations and consulting work on
"Gemstones of Peru" You may see me on the net with GIA, etc at
"Gemstones of Peru"

Lee Horowitz

“high end” is a relative matter. Remember, there’s a “picking” order
in The faceters get first pick, the cabochon makers get
next pick, and the gemstone beads are made from whatever is left at
the bottom of the pile. Short of having someone at the mine, as well
as your own personal cutters, polishers and hole drillers, you will
be getting whatever can be made from the bottom of the pile. Also,
not all manufacturers can have people at every type of mine, so you
will need several dealers if you want a wide range of colors. Also
remember, that mines come and go, so supplies of any one item will
wax and wane. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Written by someone with a large selection of beads collected over 30

Mary Jane St. Amand, Gemologist

We were miners of peruvian blue opal and mine azurite malachite
chrysocolla some of finest color stabile kilos along with premium
chrysocolla and andean sunset chrysocolla, etc rough and cut and
also make beads in Lima for 25 years. Our beads are not from left
over materials but are made from all grades of rough. Therefore based
on the grade of rough i. e. premium, superior, first quality or
second -third quality used thus the quality and the prices of the
beads. Remember that less then 5 to a max of 10% of all rough is
premium mined rough. It is easier and most cost efficient for miners
like us to not cut beads from any superior or premium rough but we do
and thus the price of the beads.

Lee Horowitz

I agree, they have good quality and are very helpful.

We have high end 100% natural blue opal, pink opal, Ortiz rhodocrosite, , pink banded rhodocrosite, sodalite, chrysocolla, opaline gem silica chryoscolla. blue chalcedony, varascite, amazonite and much more in beads, cabs, pendnats, etc We are miners-cutters-manufacturers in .925 sterling and also alpaca and do some carvings. We also do cutti8ng and sales of rough materials of all grades as miners of 23 years out of LIma and with USA office Horowitz Gemologist\Peru Blue Opal Ltd/Horowitz Co-KCIG Co Ltd

I wanted to endorse Lee Howorwitz and his quality Opal beads. He and I recently worked on selecting strands of blue opals for a good customer of mine. He was prompt with correspondence and full of great knowledge. The 3 strands he provided were as represented from photos and he retrieved the strands from his archives to satisfy the quality my customer was requesting. I’ll be back to shop with him again.