A member of the Mirrix Looms group on Facebook asked about the best places to buy beads in bulk. I haven’t figured out a graceful way to write an FB post with multiple embedded URLs, and this topic might be of interest to other folks, so I’m putting it up here.
This list pertains only to Miyuki 11/0 Delicas. “Supplies in general” would be much harder to describe.
Before I list my online vendors, I want to mention two of my local bead stores, Sea of Beads and Legendary Beads, both in beautiful Austin, TX. I haven’t yet asked them about purchasing in bulk, but when I only need 5g-10g of a color they’re great. They’re lifesavers for my usual “OMG I need 23 more DB1775 beads in order to finish that bracelet” crisis.
Sea of Beads in particular has an excellent selection of Superduos and other CzechMates two-hole beads. Their prices are comparable with the best prices I’ve found on line and their service is excellent.
Note: If I was working (or selling what I’m making), I would do my best to make all my purchases through my local stores. But as things are, I wouldn’t be able to afford the supplies I needed for my projects. I feel very guilty about it.
Support your local bead stores!
My most important criteria for bead sellers: price (duh); quality of service (especially speed of shipment, prompt communications; and handling returns); and how much of the entire Delica selection they offer. I avoid stores with minimum purchases because most of the time I don’t need enough beads to meet the minimum (or I don’t have the money). Several of my picks offer free shipping for purchases above a given price, and I’ve noted that in the descriptions. Postage costs can be as much or more than the price of the beads if you’re placing a small order.
This list assumes that none of the vendors are running sales that affect Delica prices. That can make a big difference — when I know I’ve got something epic in the pipes, I try to make purchases during holiday sales.
I don’t have a wholesale ID. The last time I checked, most wholesale vendors had minimum purchases, and/or were “only” comparable to my Top Two (therefore not worth the paperwork).
Where I list shipping prices, they’re US First Class Package rates (domestic).
Vendors are listed alphabetically; I’d be in trouble if I had to pick a favorite!
1) Aura Crystal Gifts on eBay. Don’t let the name fool you; they stock a lot more than “just” crystals. They’ve consistently got the largest selection and lowest prices of any of my top three or four sellers (I price-check when I’m placing an order for more than one or two colors of beads). They’re helpful when you need advice, they are great with returns, and they ship so quickly that I sometimes think they’ve mailed my purchase before I’ve made the purchase. They don’t have sales (at least not that I’ve noticed), but no one else gets close to their prices unless they are running a sale.
I’m not sure if they carry the entire line of Delicas. But they have ordered 25g bags of beads for me when I’ve asked, so I suspect that if you need a color they don’t have listed, they’ll get it for you.
They sell Delicas in units of 5g and 25g. Free shipping for purchases of $25 and higher.
2) Bello Modo Beads Pam’s pricing is not much above Aura’s, and if she’s running a sale she’ll be lower. That’s really the only difference — otherwise her service and selection are comparable to Aura.
They sell Delicas in 7-8g tubes (not the standard 7.2g tubes directly from Miyuki) and offer discounts for bulk purchases. Free shipping for purchases $14.95 and higher.
3) Artbeads I used to purchase from both Artbeads and Fusion Beads regularly. They were critical to my outburst of beading after my mother died in 2009. Since then, I’ve become more informed and more aggressive about chasing lowest price (funny how that happens when you stop working). However, Artbeads runs some really good sales, so it’s worth being on their mailing list.
I get the majority of my beads from these three vendors, but I want to mention two others: General Beads on Etsy, and Bluemud.
General Beads is an Alladin’s treasure of beads for people who live in the San Francisco Bay area, within reach of their brick-and-mortar store. Amongst the other goodies they have for sale in their Etsy shop, they have a limited selection of Delicas in 50g bags. If they’ve got what you need, they’re the least expensive I’ve found. They respond to questions quickly and ship within a day of purchase.
[By “least expensive,” I mean “50g of DB10 opaque black'” for $13 plus $3 shipping, as of 15 July 2014. Crazy.]
They have pulled at least one color in for me from their physical store when I needed a color they hadn’t listed on Etsy, so ask if you don’t see what you need.
I first discovered BlueMud when I was trolling the Internet looking for good prices on Swarovski bicones (they have great prices and an interesting supply of limited availability and out-of-production Swarovski). Their clearance section includes a limited supply of Delicas in 16g quantities. Their clearance prices are good, but what’s even better is that they often have sales on their clearance items, offering them for 50% off the “regular” clearance price. For instance, “16g of DB51 Crystal AB” for $3.15 plus $1.95 shipping, as of 14 June 2014, with the “50% off clearance prices” sale running. They must be selling them out – they have very few of the higher Delica numbers and a scattered selection of the others.
They ship within a business day, and unlike anyone else I’ve ever seen, their home page tells you what day your order will ship.
There are some well-known online vendors I’ve missed. I don’t shop at Caravan Beads because they have a $40 minimum.
Several fellow beaders have mentioned Fire Mountain Gems and their “reseller” Jetbeads. Back in the day, FMG offered a fairly limited selection of Delica colors and finishes, but that’s no longer the case: they carry at least 721 colors out of the 937 (?) still in production. They also offer a buyer-friendly discount tier, based on the number of items you buy. Take a look at the comments by Cheryl Beaton and Gail, below, for more details.
Jason, the man behind Jetbeads, has an arrangement with FMG that allows you to purchase through him to get the maximum discount available. [The top tier discount is for purchases of 200 items or more, which can be a problem if you want 20 tubes of Delicas.] Debi Calciera’s comment explains in more detail.
I will be working on go-to lists for modern and vintage Swarovski at some point – stay tuned!