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 re-create natural scenes and memorable themes with on-loom or off-loom bead weaving.
Visiting bead shops is a significant reason for travel, because that is where one finds the materials, the instruction and the artistry of beaded jewelry-making.
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.
- Argenta Bead Company, 703 N. Main St., North Little Rock, AR 72114, ☏ .
- [dead link] Dragonfly Bead Company, P.O. Box 1461, Roseville California, CA 95678.
- Glitzy Glass Studio, Murrieta California, ☏ . fine lampwork beads, created by DeMarie
- Brea Bead Works, 1027 E. Imperial Hwy., Unit D5, Brea, CA 92821, ☏ .
- Out On A Whim, 121 E. Cotati Ave., Cotati, CA 94931, ☏ .
- Kiowa Rose, 37581 Niles Blvd., Fremont, CA 94536, ☏ .
- Beads of Marin, 8 Locust Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941, ☏ .
- Luna's Beads & Glass, 416 Main St., Frisco, CO 80443, ☏ .
- [dead link] Manifest Beads, LLC, 51 River St, Milford, CT 06460, ☏ .
- The Bead Boutique, 913 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Brandon, FL 33511, ☏ .
- My Bead Gallery, 3671 S. Access Road, Englewood, FL 34224, ☏ .
- Bead All About It, 2441 NW 43rd St., Suite 19, Gainesville, FL 32606, ☏ .
- River City Beads, 1615 W. University Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32217, ☏ .
- Bead Boutique, 8847 SW 132nd Street, Miami, FL 33176, ☏ .
- Bijoux Design Creations Inc., 4776 SW 72 Avenue, Miami, FL 33155, ☏ .
- Anderson's Bead Room, 24600 Sandhill Blvd, Port Charlotte, FL 33983, ☏ .
- The Beadcage, Inc., 6401 Whitesville Rd., Suite 300, Columbus, GA 31904 (Located near Callaway Gardens, one hour from the Atlanta Airport), ☏ .
- Bead It! Kaimuki (Honolulu), 1152 Koko Head Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816, ☏ .
- Bead It! Kailua, 629 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734, ☏ .
- Bead It! Kapolei, 590 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei, HI 96707, ☏ .
- La Bead, Oh!, 1500 S. 6th St., Springfield, IL 62704, ☏ .
- Beads Amore (Fishers), 116th & Allisonville Rd, Fishers, IN 46038, ☏ .
- Beads Amore (Indianapolis), 3834 E. 82nd St, Indianapolis, IN 46240, ☏ .
- The Beadin' Path, 15 Main Street, Freeport, ME 04032, ☏ .
- Bead + Fiber, 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118, USA
- [dead link] Bead Emporium of Cape Cod, 551 Main St., Hyannis, MA 02601, ☏ .
- Bead Gallery Inc., 520 Franklin Street, Melrose, MA, 02176, ☏ .
- Bead Culture, 180 W. Michigan Ave., Jackson, MI 49201, ☏ .
- Stormcloud Trading Co. (Beadstorm), 725 Snelling Ave. North, Saint Paul, MN 55104, ☏ .
- Glasshopper Studio LLC, 13011 Olive Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141, ☏ .
- Lady Bug Beads, 7616 Big Bend Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63119, ☏ .
- Lotus Beads, 155 Delaware Ave., Delmar, NY 12054, ☏ .
- Sandaga a div. of Bhens Products Inc., 1231 Broadway, street level, NY, NY 10001, ☏ .
- Beads 'N Things, 50 State St., Pittsford (Rochester), NY 14534, ☏ .
- The Bead Room, 3321 Guess Rd., Durham, NC 27705, ☏ .
- Cindale Beads, 150-B South Equity Drive, Smithfield, NC 27577, ☏ .
- A Place To Bead, 814 S College Rd., Wilmington NC 28403, ☏ .
- Beads 'N More, 1809 Lincoln Way, E., Massillon, OH 44646, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- OhioBeads.com, 3116 W. US Hwy 22 and 3, Suite C-300, Maineville, OH 45039, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Shop Online 24/7.
- Ginia's Beads, 4914 River Rd. N., Keizer, OR, ☏ .
- The Potomac Bead Company, 167 Bridge St., Phoenixville, PA 19460, ☏ .
- [dead link] The Beaded Frog, 241C N. Main St., Greenville, SC 29601, ☏ .
- Ami's Creations, 7855 Farmington Blvd - Germantown, TN 38138, ☏ .
- [dead link] Bead Oasis, 1425 FM 802 Suite N, Brownsville, TX 78521, ☏ .
- Splendor In The Glass, 1900 Abrams Pkwy., Dallas, TX 75214, ☏ .
- Artful Bead, 5304 Trail Lake Dr., Fort Worth, TX 76133, ☏ .
- Beadoholique, 8220 Louetta #124., Spring, TX 77379, ☏ .
- Bead on Beads, 11538 Harry Hines Blvd STE C1., Dallas, TX 77229, ☏ .
- The Bead Cottage, 5278 Fairfield Shopping Center, Virginia Beach, VA 23464, ☏ .
- Beadworld (Kirkland), 110 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033, ☏ .
- Shipwreck Beads, 8560 Commerce Place Dr NE, Lacey, WA 98516, toll-free: .
- Alexander's Bead Bazaar, 6307 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 981115, ☏ .
- Beadworld (Seattle), 9520 Roosevelt Way, Seattle, WA 98115, ☏ .
- Fusion Beads, 3830 Stone Way North, Seattle, WA 98103, ☏ .
- Fireweed Bead Company, 915 SW 152nd St, Seattle, WA 98166, ☏ .
- Kimdoly Beads at English Bay, 909 Denman St., Vancouver, BC, ☏ . Semi-precious stone beads in strands, findings, tools, classes and more.
- Bedrock Supply Ltd., 9435-63 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T6E0G2, ☏ , toll-free: .
- That Bead Lady, 390 Davis Drive, Newmarket, On L3X1A7, ☏ .
- BeadedLily - Florence, Italy (An inspiring array of unique, Italian beading supples, designer jewelry, Tubular Wire Mesh Ribbons and more.), Via Toscanella 33R, Florence, Italy 50125, ☏ .
- BeadedLily Glass Works - Florence, Italy, Via Toscanella 33R Florence, Italy 50125 (The Oltrarno District - 5 minutes from Ponte Vecchio at the corner of Via Toscanella & Via Dei Veluti), ☏ . Beginner and Intermediate Beadmaking Courses.
- Crystal and Glass Beads, Wales, United Kingdom, ☏ . Jewellery making course information and beading supplies.
- The Beadstalk, Swansea, United Kingdom, fax: . Gemstones, Swarovski, threads and beading components.
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 and 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.