August 31, 2009

Los Angeles Jewelry District - A Beaders Dream AND Nightmare.

First of all, so sorry I didn't get around to posting my weekly Fashionably Friday entry last week. It's been a crazy few weeks with leaving and returning to LA unexpectedly, though I think I am starting to get back into the groove of things. I think...
I have been living in LA for over a year now and have yet to find a jewelry supply store that makes me smile. I have heard all kinds of mixed reviews about the Jewelry District downtown, though have been avoiding it because a.) I didn't want to leave disappointed and b.) though it's not far away mile-wise, LA's traffic and subsequential parking is a nightmare, so just making the 12-mile journey is exhausting and takes the better half of a whole day. That said, this weekend my end of LA (the Valley) has been plagued with crazy amounts of smoke thanks to harboring wildfires, so on Saturday morning the Hubs and I needed a reason to get outta the area. I could think of nothing better than to finally cowgirl-up and make the adventure to the Jewelry District. After facing a fair amount of traffic and not finding the exit Google maps suggested, we drove into the first parking lot we could find and figured we would find where we hoped to go on foot.
LA is both alike and unlike other cities in that downtown itself is only really used by business people on the weekdays. Most of the city life is outside of the city limits. Except Broadway, which used to be the theater district of the West whose theaters are now factory stores (with the exception of the Orpheum). Broadway is bustling with ice cream carts, hole-in-the-wall pharmacies, taco trucks, crappy fast-food restaurants, guys trying to sell CD's on the corner, woman trying to sell something else on the corner, you get where I am going with this. Oh, and Broadway is also home to The Jewelry District itself. Perfect. (I thus didn't take as many pictures as I had planned since it was the kind of hood where you didn't want people to know you were carrying around an expensive electronic gadget. Same goes for the GPS I could have benefited from on my Blackberry. Next time I am going with just a few bills hidden deep within my bra and a good pair of tennis shoes. That's it). That said, we didn't really know where to begin when we started our trek around the hood since every store claimed "Wholesale" and "Unbeatable" prices. The majority of stores seemed to sell jewelry itself rather than jewelry making supplies (no surprise here). We finally found a hole in the wall little bead store (oddly called SSMAGR & MB, so good luck finding it in the phone book! The owners are from Egypt so I assume the name means something having to do with Jewelry in Coptic!) on 7th near Broadway. I had a great conversation with the lady behind the counter, who told me a bigger shop was just down the street a bit. I left with only a strand of emerald glass crystals that cost $12 - my kind of deal. (note: You can click on the name of each store I mention to read my Yelp review on the business). I tried my luck at the next little hole in the wall store next door but only found rude sales people and overpriced beads. Blah. I finally found a store that I have heard alot about - Bella Beads. This place was a little trippy but I left with some good finds, including some gold chain (for which I have been searching high and low for months) and some great rare gemstones and headpins. The location itself, as stated in my Yelp review, is more of a factory store for people with a business license than amateurs like myself, though the lady working there made me feel semi-comfortable! The husband helped me pick out some items for what he is calling my "fall line" and even encouraged me to buy more than I had planned. My kind of guy! At this point, though I had purchased a few good items, I was itching to discover where the real goods laid hidden, and suggested we find the 8th and Maple intersection Yelp deemed as the heart of the Jewelry District. Of course we got lost, and of course I didn't want to bring my Blackberry out to help me find the place since stood out as it was. After about an hour of circling the district in the 100 degree heat, the mecca was in sight: 8th and Maple! According to Google Maps, this intersection is home to about a dozen jewelry supply stores, many of which claim to be the biggest in the city. We started by visiting "Beads and More," which at the time I thought was the best jewelry supply store I had ever seen in my life. Aisles and aisles of gemstones, pearls, glass, Czech, fire-polished, porcelain, wooden, seed, and rare beads. Not only that, but they were all reasonably priced, well organized, and well marked. The only downfall was the sneudy staff who at one point had the nerve to come up to me and ask what my husband was doing sitting in the corner. You can read all about it here :) I left with some really funky gemstone beads, yet with a really bad taste in my mouth thanks to the crappy and intrusive staff. (Haha, note the google maps picture. Wasn't about to whip out my camera in this hood!). The poor husband at this point was dehydrated and ready to melt, but I pushed him enough to visit just one more store (with a little puppy-eyed action and a "pleeeeeeeeeeease!"). We walked down the street and stumbled on a non-marked building that looked promising. I walked in and gasped in disbelief. Poked myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. An actual bead heaven! This store, Athenian Fashions, had it ALL! Aisles and aisles of well organized, thematic, and color coordinated findings galore. The store is divided into three sections: findings, chain, and children's. The findings room: We're talking every size of headpins, spring rings, clasps, etc, and in 4 options - gold, silver, brass, and copper! The stuff literally is stacked from ceiling to floor. They have TONS of charms sold in bulk at SUPER cheap prices - featuring everything from religious charms (sectioned by religion rather than all jumbled together, and including rosary materials!) to a huge selection of skulls! The chain room: is basically my heaven. I have been looking EVERYWHERE for some gold chain and found it BY THE AISLE here! AND - it's all perfectly priced and organized! They not only have silver, gold, yellow gold, copper, and brass colored chains, but also pink, blue, white, green, etc. They also sell them by the ream in addition to by the foot. Amazing. (Note all the gold chain options in a super organized fashion!). The last room was full of what I consider "children's" beads - wooden, plastic, funky, brightly colored, etc. A perfect resource for a teacher or parent! If all this amazingness weren't enough, the staff here were 100% cordial and interactive. I had some great conversations with the gals working there and even gave some of them my card. They also have beautiful sample pieces on display and put your purchases in a nifty reusable jewelry bag! I have found my main jewelry source in LA - and now know how to best get here without getting lost :) Overall, my adventure into the heart of LA's Jewelry District was successful, but not without the blood, sweat, and tears (ok, fine, blood-curdling heat, sweat, and Gatorade) it took to find it's gems. I bought lots of cool items and now know what resources are at my disposal. Now longer do I need to reply on Michael's! Go figure, though, that the next day we swung by the chain craft store for something un-jewelry related to fund that they had just re-structured their whole bead section. There goes that idea! (note my Hub's glee in the newly renovated section - there goes our next paycheck!).
You can read my list of LA Jewelry District reviews here :)

13 comments:

  1. Girl, what a find! Now you won't have to yearn for trips back to Berkeley to your favorite bead stores to restock your stash.

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  2. Gosh I'm exhausted just reading what you went through to get those beads! LA sounds very intimidating. I'm glad you found what you were looking for :)

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  3. Wow! We go to LA maybe twice a month to walk the alley/swap meet. It's horrible & I hate it but I cant stop going because I always find the best deals on flats (shoes).

    I'm so happy about winning the giveaway! I LOVE the necklace & how simple it is. I cant wait til I'm able to wear it :) fyi: I emailed Danielle my info this morning.

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  4. I went to the Jewelry District once, and I think that might be enough for a lifetime. Your Etsy shop is lovely by the way.

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  5. Sounds like an adventure! And a fun one at that. :> I can't wait to see what you design and create with all of your new goodies. And am thrilled that you will be using gold in addition to the silver. I wear a lot of silver pieces, but my rings are all gold, so sometimes its nice to have gold elsewhere as well. :> I was at Michael's yesterday with a friend and noticed the new, expanded beading section. Actually, said friend ended up picking up a couple of Western themed charms to use in her paper crafting as she's a country girl at heart. Have fun designing that fall collection!

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  6. Wow, I am so jealous. We don't have anything like that here. I've had to buy it all online and interstate.

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  7. I have been to both stores and while their supplies are OK, the quality is not that great. You will get the greatest selection/quality of beads and findings at the jewelry shows, either the Gem Faire or the Intergem Shows that are held in and around L.A. The prices are good and the selection tremendous. Go online for a schedule of the shows.
    I am a huge fan and I think you should have won the All Star Challenge. I also love your large bold jewelry shown on your website - not the jewelry sold through Etsy.

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  8. I loved the article! These types of resources are extremely valuable to anyone interested in making jewelry. I can't wait to read some more of your articles!

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  9. I really love the jewelry specially the exhibitions where i can appreciate all types and styles of earing, necklace and bracelets. I really love to shine outstanding and gorgeous every time because i am trying to conquer a handsome boy...
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  10. I just came across your blog. I love it. I've lived in California my whole life but (for most of the reasons listed above), I've always avoided driving to Downtown LA. I have been making beaded jewelry for a while now and have been hoping to come across some good local bead resellers. I resist buying my bead supplies from retailers like, Michaels. Due to demand purposes, I can't wait until the May Intergem Bead convention, in Santa Monica. It's 2012 now, have you returned to the shops above? Do you know if they are still around?

    Thanks, Marisa

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  11. Hi Marisa,

    I went back to the Jewelry District (I no longer live in LA - SADNESS!) in September and yes, everything that I wrote about is still in business - and a few more shops have opened up around the area, too! My favorites are still Athenian Fashions and The Bead Factory - both of which you can read all about them and where they are located here: http://www.yelp.com/list/los-angeles-jewelry-district-los-angeles

    Let me know how your trip goes :)

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  12. I'm from LA but have never made the trek to the jewelry district. I'm going this weekend, and I am SO happy that I found your blog. I also enjoyed reading it! You're funny! Thanks so much for all the tips! Can't wait! I'm doing a friendship bracelet project to raise funds for a girl's orphanage, and I'm making kits for people who want to help make and sell bracelets to benefit the orphanage. It's like a bake sale with friendship bracelets. So, I'm looking for cheap supplies, and from all the searching online, your post was more helpful! Let me know if you'd be interested in also joining our project!!!

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