New York City, NY

New York City's Haven for Bead Crafters

Michael Loren

Photo by Robby McCullough on Unsplash

When my friend, Heather, told me that she was going to take me to a bead store for a new adventure, I thought, 'Well, this is going to be a nice easy one. Nothing overwhelming like the Met." Wrong. Just like most things in New York, when you want to go to a bead store, you go to the bead district.

Yes, folks, there is, in fact, a bead district. It's in the 30's near the fashion district. And there's also a whole New York beading community. People are serious about their beads, folks. Serious. I was glad to have my tour guide, Heather with me on the adventure.

Now, I do know a little about beading. Just a little. The ladies in my dressing room when I was in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway were pros at it and I got to watch them bead (used as a verb) during the show. So, I know that it takes a lot of time and even more patience to make your own jewelry.

What I didn't know is that there are a lot of beads to choose from. Like, a LOT! First of all, when we walked into the store I was completely taken aback by rows and rows of glittering beads along the wall. It looked as if the wall itself had been beaded. My inner five-year-old turned cartwheels. Sparkles!

Then I looked a little closer. There were acrylic beads, glass beads, metal beads, pearls, turquoise beads, wood beads, porcelain beads, tourmaline, polished quartz, amethyst, beads made of bone and horn, and Swarovski crystals. Just to name a few.

Then there were individual beads, wires, chains, pliers, charms, clasps, jumprings, mountings, and many things for which I could neither find a name nor discern a function. Heather strolled along the aisle picking up strands and expertly assessing their value. Which made me look at price tags. What? $270? Per strand? I looked, dumbfounded, at my tour guide and pointed to the seemingly ridiculous price.

"Oh, that's real topaz. That's not a bad price." WHAT?!?! Obviously, this beading stuff is REALLY serious. She picked up an already-made necklace. "See? This is really easy to make. It just takes a lot of time. You attach each one of these brown beads to a jump ring individually and then wrap through here, attach this, cut this . . . ." Oy. I'd rather buy it. "Yeah", she said, "Sometimes it's cheaper to do that, too."

I did not desire to learn the art of beading (I am happy to remain a casual-yet-admiring observer), but I did learn a lot during my bead store exploit. Most intriguing was my tutorial (thanks, Heather) on how pearls are manipulated to make them different colors and shapes. Maybe I'm the only person that didn't know this, but I was fascinated that dyes are injected into the oysters before the pearls are formed to make them different colors.

There was literally a pearl of every color in the store. There were also shaped pearls. I picked up a strand of pearl crosses. Apparently, these pearl folks insert a small cross into the oyster (poor agitated mollusk) and it forms the pearl around it by wrapping layers of its nacre (new word of the day) around it. Eventually, when the pearls are harvested, it comes out in the desired shape. Crazy!

I looked around the store at all of the tools and semi-precious gems and thought, wow, I know nothing. Beading, like most other crafts and hobbies is a veritable rabbit hole in which one can get super lost. And some people are happy to jump in. For me, I enjoyed and appreciated the trip and will never take another piece of jewelry for granted ever again.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA

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