This article is a travel topic
Beading is a centuries-old pastime, recreation, profession, religion or obsession. Beads and beaded objects have served as amulets, as trophies, as money and as adornment. Many people derive pleasure from the challenges of color, design and texture; many relax with the slow rhythm of knotting beads onto various cords; others recreate natural scenes and memorable themes with on-loom bead weaving or off-loom bead weaving.
Visiting bead shops where one finds the materials, the instruction and the artistry of beaded jewelry-making is a significant reason for travel.
Old beads are being discovered worldwide in archeological digs quite frequently. No one can say for sure when - or where - stringing a found object with a hole in it first originated.
If you are planning a comprehensive tour of bead shops in the United States, you will truly be traveling "from sea to shining sea." Your journey will take you through the diverse regions of the United States: rocky New England coast, sunny southern beaches, the Midwest heartland, Rocky Mountain majesty, the dry Southwest, the wooded Northwest, the Ozark Mountains, Texas plains, border towns.
Bead shops will be found in small towns, in bedroom communities and suburbs, and in large cities. They can vary widely in size, from a tiny storefront, lavish boutiques, warehouses, and just about anything in-between. Most shops not only sell beads and findings, but also various supplies for using your beads to make jewelry, crafts, and one-of-a-kind works of art. Be sure to chat with salespeople and/or owners - not only are they an invaluable resource for information about beads, but quite often they will also be happy to help you with design and technique.
You will see a diversity of beading disciplines: Native American style beadwork, on-loom bead weaving, off-loom beadweaving, bead knotting on silk and other cords, bead stringing on bead wire and stretchy, wire wrapping, wire crochet, lampworking. The types of beads and findings are almost limitless: ceramic beads and pendants; wood beads and pendants; beads and findings of sterling silver, fine silver, karat gold, gold-filled, silver-plated, gold-plated, gunmetal plated, copper and antique copper plated, brass and oxidized brass, pewter, etc. Depending on the store, beads of various gemstones may also be for sale: amethyst, chalcedony, citrine, garnet, iolite, labradorite, mookite, moonstone, pearls, peridot, quartz, rhodonite, ruby, sapphire, tanzanite, tourmaline, turquoise, unakite, various agates and jaspers, and many more.
You will see beads, chain and findings made in, or made of materials found in, the United States, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Peru, Japan, China (PRC), Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Kenya, Tibet, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica.
You will find Czech glass, Czech crystal, Austrian crystal, Chinese lampwork, Taiwanese lampwork, Thai lampwork, Japanese seed beads, French seed beads, Czech seed beads, Indian seed beads, Chinese seed beads, Italian gold and sterling chain, Italian gold and sterling findings, Korean chain, Chinese chain, American chain, American filigrees, Austrian glass pearls, Czech glass pearls, Chinese glass pearls, Chinese and Vietnamese shell pearls, New Zealand's paua shell, African sand-cast beads, African bronze pendants, African kazuri beads, African fair-trade beadwork, Indian silver, vermeil and other metal beads and findings, Thai marcasite, Thai sterling, Thai Hill Tribe Silver, Tibetan silver, Peruvian ceramic charms, etc.
Where to Stay
Contact the bead store ahead of time if you are traveling a great distance and would like a recommendation on where to stay in their area. Many stores are part of a local Merchants' Association or group where they get special discounts to pass along to their customers and visitors. Even if they can't offer you lodging discounts, they probably have had many guests who have stayed at local accommodations and can pass along any recommendations of where to stay or where to avoid.
It's always a good idea when planning your shopping trip to call ahead to confirm the stores hours, even if their hours are listed on their website. Local holidays, shortened off-season hours, or other reasons may from time to time deter the owner or staff from opening and it's better to be safe than sorry. Also, many bead stores would be delighted to hear about someone coming from a great distance solely to see their shop. They might be able to inform you if there are any special events such as trunk shows, book signings, or classes taking place during your stay.
Due to issues of global supply and demand, geopolitics and circumstances beyond the shop owners' control, you may never see that same attractive bead offered for sale ever again in your lifetime.
In addition, some types of beads that are easier to source than others (such as Austrian crystals), still have dye lots, where the color will vary slightly from lot to lot (much as you may see color differences in different lots of textiles such as carpet.)
Buy plenty of beads and beading material now to make the projects you need.
Check in advance for forms of payment accepted by the bead shops. In the United States, the most common forms of payment accepted are Cash, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card and Checks drawn on a local bank. However, not every shop will accept every form of payment.
Classes & In-Store Events
When planning your bead trip, be sure to check your destination store's website or listing of class offerings. You may be able to plan your trip around an exciting in-store event, visiting artist class, trunk show or some other 'not-to-miss' event.
Some bead shops allow you to bring your own wine or have hosted events that include wine and assorted beverages. You should check first with the bead shop before assuming that you can bring wine - or any other food or beverage - into the shop.
If the neighborhood where the bead shop is located looks safe, then you are probably safe too. Remember that the bead shops serve their local customers, who also wish to be safe.
Tipping bead shop staff who help you beyond cashing you out is permissible, acceptable and highly appreciated. However some bead shops may have a policy against it. A sincere thank you and acknowledgment of good customer service is always appreciated.