How to “DO” a Bead Show – A Buyer’s Guide

If you’ve never been to a bead show, or if you haven’t been to very many, here’s what to expect:

1. Waiting almost breathless with anticipation in line for the door to open.
2. Seeing the overwhelming sparkle of bright lights on thousands of sparkly beads.
3. Grabbing something shiny and shoving money at the vendor.
4. Repeating step 3 until something makes you stop.

And then you get home and realize that some of your treasures are not so much. And that sales at shows are All Sales Final, no refunds or exchanges.

So from our expert long-time professional Show Shoppers, here’s how to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

1. Plan Ahead

-If you plan to buy stones and glass, educate yourself before time. Many bead stores offer classes or tutorials in identification. The Artful Bead does!

-Check your stash the night before to make sure you don’t buy more of the exact same thing you bought the last two years. (Because you love it. I know, been there.)

-Pack a large water bottle and granola bar, fruit snacks or nuts in your tote bag. If you plan to be there all day, think about taking a small rolly-suitcase AND a tote bag. And maybe a sandwich. Sometimes food is available, sometimes it’s only a food-like substances.

-If you have a sales tax number and plan to buy wholesale, pack a copy of your official license and print labels with your name, your busines name, address, phone, and resale number on them. This will save you and the vendors a lot of time. 20-to-a-page address labels are perfect. No fancy fonts, please.

-Take a few white paper towels or washcloths, packed where you can easily reach them.

-Check online for entrance fees, parking, and other information. Many shows are “no strollers allowed” and very few are child-friendly.

-Take something to take notes on – phone app or paper and pen.

-Take some kind of wet wipes for cleaning your hands if it bothers you when they get stinky.
If budget is a concern, take only that much cash. And maybe one credit card, because you never know when you’ll fall in love.

2. That Morning

-Wear comfortable shoes. The floors are hard and you will walk a lot.

-Wear a light shirt, with a sweater. Temprature can fluctuate wildly, depending on the crowds. Don’t wear “nice” clothes, though. Stones are dirty and the line used to string them causes snags in fragile fabrics.

-EAT BREAKFAST! Shows don’t open at the crack of dawn, and you need energy to make decisions.

-Lock you car, don’t leave anything valuable visible.

-If there’s an entrance fee, have it ready in your hand when you get to the door. If you’re supposed to fill out a card, have it ready.

3. In The Show

-Do a flyby first! Start at one side of the room and quickly scan what every booth has. Make notes of things you want to come back to, especially prices. Don’t let yourself be caught by something without checking it all out!

-Keep track of your purse or rolly, keep them out of the way of other shoppers, and don’t set them on the beads.

-Drink your water, and nibble on your snacks before you get really hungry. Low blood sugar + dehydration + hot lights + sparkles = poor decisions.

-If your totebag gets heavy, go to the car and unload it. It weighs you down and makes breakage nearly inevitable.

4. SHOP CAREFULLY! – We Can’t Stress This Enough

-Those extremely bright lights aren’t there to help you, they blind you to the flaws and scratches on the beads! Use your white paper towels and rub a shiny stone to make sure the shine isn’t ArmorAll on the surface. Look carefully at the entire strand for scratches, cracks, and chips.

-Many stones are dyed or treated. Rubbing them with your towel will remove some of the dye. How much dye comes off and how it looks where you rubbed it should guide your decision.

-Some stones hold color modification very well, like jaspers and agates. Chalcedony doesn’t, and will often fade in a dark closet. It’s not as common now as it was 5 years ago for that reason.

-Sometimes stone has been dipped in varnish or coated with something to make it shiny, so be aware of how the holes look on the beads in the middle of the strand.

-“Buffalo Turquoise” and all of the other bright colors (except for a certain color of purple, which is pressure dyed and pricey) are NOT turquoise. They are dyed magnasite or howlite. African turquoise is one of the jaspers. They’re not bad stones, if they are dyed well, but they aren’t turquoise.

-Remember that if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody can afford to sell real sterling for 30% less per gram than everybody else is. Real turquoise won’t be $2.00 a strand unless it’s tiny and lousy quality. Having a stamp of “92.5” or “18K” is NOT a guarantee of the metal content. (No, customs does NOT verify that on imports, they just make sure it isn’t coated with poison or radioactive.)

-Don’t tell the vendor you are buying wholesale and then buy one $10 strand and expect a discount. Discounts usually start at $500 or higher. And they remember faces very well.

-If you have a large purchase at one booth, ask if you can come by later and pick it up. Leave a cell phone number or a specific time, but realize that if they are very busy, it might not be ready when expected. Take one of their cards and remember to go back and pick it up BEFORE you leave.

-If the entire table says “all strands half off!” then they are priced double what they really sell for. Would you still want it if it wasn’t labeled “half off” – probably not.

-Of course, the best deals are on the afternoon of the last day, along with the worst selection. Nobody wants to pack it all up for the next show. But don’t offer half of what something is marked unless it’s damaged, or you will insult the vendor. Who has been standing there all day long for 3 days or more, and has to pack it all up and load the truck before he can leave. And selling even 20 strands won’t make it easier to load up, so you’re not doing any favors here.