|PEARLS FROM BEADS ONE|
It's also useful to know which shops and sites have the best prices on the various beads and findings that you use. I've found that some of the more expensive sites often have certain products that they sell cheaper than anywhere else, especially when they're having a sale on everything on the site. So, take some time to explore a lot of different sites and become familiar with what they offer. Take note of their shipping costs as well. Many offer free shipping if you spend more than a certain amount there. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Beadaholique (online shop - note the "a" after "Bead"): If you browse through their clasps, there are quite a few nice, cheap ones that I actually like better than the fancy ones. Since the projects that I make tend to be more rustic, casual or even "grungy" in style, these inexpensive clasps suit me just fine. They are made of base metals and usually have a kind of vintage look to them that I particularly like.
Aura Crystals on eBay: This is a "buy it now" eBay store. They sell Czech and Japanese beads for about half the price of most other sites and shops. For example, you get a hundred 3mm or 4mm fire polished beads for the price you would pay for only 50 most other places. They have very fast, free shipping on orders over $25. The drawback is that you don't know what products they will have in stock at any given time. They also have good prices on SuperDuos, druks and Tila beads. I haven't seen 50 yard spools of 6lb FireLine anywhere cheaper than Aura either.
Aria Design Studio on Etsy: She's got the largest selection of SuperDuo beads anywhere and her prices are competitive. She has a flat $3.50 shipping charge so I wait until there are several items that I want or when my friend will split an order with me.
Red Panda: Betsy has a nice selection of 3mm druks, which can be very hard to find in that size.
ArtBeads.com: They've also got a good selection of 3mm druks. They have good prices on 120 and 100 packs of 3mm and 4mm fire polish beads but their color selection is limited.
Check online or in your local phone book to see where there are bead shops in your area. When I first started beading, I was very happy to discover that there are four really great bead shops in my area: Beadoholique, Beads One, Spring Beads and 1960 Beads. The nice thing is that each one has a different assortment of products and price ranges.
Beadoholique (local shop - note the "o" after "Bead"): has a huge variety of pretty much everything you could want or need for beading and they have good weekly sales. You can get inexpensive Chinese crystals there or splurge on Swarovski crystals. On my budget, I stick with the Chinavoski crystals and they work perfectly for me. Besides the crystals (bicones and rondelles), they also have a good every day price on SuperDuo beads. Ten gram bags are around $3.00 or less. The color selection is kind of limited but they also have some of the SuperDuos with the smooth, flat tops.
Beads One: They have good everyday prices on everything because they mostly sell beads from China. They have a frequent shopper card and I'm at the level where I always get 20% off my purchase of any regular price merchandise. It gets even better when they have a sale. Several times a year, they have buy one strand/get one strand free and occasionally they'll have 50% off everything. Most of their glass beads are already cheap at $1.00-$3.00 per strand so 50% off is a deal not to be missed. I get most of my bicones, rondelles and pearls from Beads One. They also have great prices on base metal findings.
I shop at Beads One and Beadoholique the most because they're the closest to where I live and they have the best selection, prices and sales. However, I do make the drive to Spring Beads a couple times a year when they have a sale. I often find things there that I haven't seen in any of the other shops or online. I've only lately explored 1960 Beads. It's a tiny shop but there are some treasures there as well. They have the largest selection of SuperDuo beads that I've seen anywhere, maybe even more colors than any online shop. They sell them in large tubes and the prices seemed very good. I seem to recall that most colors were around or under $3.00 per tube.
Be sure to also check your local craft stores such as Hobby Lobby and Michael's. They mostly sell inferior seed beads but might have some good deals on other beading supplies, especially if you've got one of their weekly 40% off coupons.
There are drawbacks with ordering from China though. Mainly that it can take up to a month to receive them but also, if you have a problem with an order, it's not economically convenient to return something if it's not right. I ran into that recently. I ordered some magnet clasps just like the ones I buy at Beads One but they sent me the wrong ones. I like the ones they sent well enough but they're not as nice as the ones I actually ordered. I've got an open case with them to see I can actually get the clasps that I ordered. I don't want a refund or exchange, I just want to know that if I order those clasps again that I'll get the right ones the next time. Also, there's a major Chinese holiday at the moment so the shop is closed until the middle of February. With the same order, I also got some bronze cylinder clasps and those are just what was advertised and they're very nice.
So, if speed and convenience are what you need, shopping eBay might not be the best option for you. If you're not in a hurry, there are some super prices to be had. For example, the clasps that I wanted come in lots of 30 pieces for only $6.99 and shipping is free. That works out to only 23-cents per clasp! I was paying $2.00 per package of two of them at Beads One minus my 20% frequent shopper discount plus sales tax.
I just want to mention that I don't make money from any of those shops that you see listed on the right side of this page (with the exception of the Amazon link to Corel Paint Shop Pro X6). I've posted those links to support the shops and sites that I use the most. I'm hoping to open an Etsy shop soon where I can sell my beadwork and digital graphics in hopes that this will help finance my hobbies.