How To Shop For Beads

Cindy's Art & Soul Beads
I have worked as a bead maker and jewelry designer since 1995 and professionally since 2003. 

Over that time, the industry and ways we buy and sell beads have changed dramatically. And they continue to change. As big names like Etsy change their policy so must we change the way we shop.

When I started out there was this place called Just Beads. Nothing but beads! How cool is that?  I had a place to sell and folks there that wanted to buy beads. My business took off!

Then came Ebay. The waters were a little more muddy but it was a also a nice place to sell and buy. There were beading communities (groups) there that inspired us and helped many of us grow and learn in our chosen craft.

But like all good things, it faded away as mass produced "goods" flooded the listings. And we moved on.
Cindy's Art & Soul Beads
A new place had just launched and was growing by leaps and bounds. The price to list products seemed far better than Ebay for makers and it was a specific market place just for handcrafted items. Cool! Count me in!

It (Etsy) began as a market place for makers. For the individual artist/maker to sell their handcrafted products to the world. And it was good.

However, as I said before all good things fade away eventually. And now it is as muddy as any other market. It has become very difficult to find what you are looking for and then to discern if IT is what you think it will be. Is is mass produced? Is it real pottery? Is it polymer clay? Is it agate or is it Moonstone? Who knows? Is it really Navajo or fake?
Cindy's Art & Soul Beads

Certainly most of the listings I come across will not give me the full details. Many times I have to write the seller and ask.

The "handmade" marketplace is absolutely flooded with "Native" art. Not made by Native Americans at all. That in itself disgusts me. But, I'll save that for another post.

If you are shopping for beads, what are you looking for?

If by chance you are searching for ceramic beads, and you prefer the handcrafted type, here are some search terms you may find useful;
  • handcrafted ceramic beads
  • handmade ceramic beads
  • pottery beads handmade
  • blue pottery beads (or whatever color you are after)
And if by chance you are looking to purchase beads made by a specific maker, try using their name or shop name. such as Cindy's Art and Soul.

Many times I have preformed searches on Etsy and gotten a Zero result. Even when searching my own shop name! Go to Google if this happens. Google will find what Etsy wont give you. They have the search tool to be all end all. Use it. Even if you are searching for something on Etsy.

Such as;
Cindy's Art & Soul Beads

Once you have a thousand plus results from your search, you'll want to narrow it down. 

When searching for beads, be as specific (I know I've said that a lot but it helps!) as you can. Use color shape, size and type as much as you feel is necessary.

Once you land on a listing that you feel fits your needs/wants read, read, read the listing description. I cannot stress enough how important this is.

So many instances I have searched for a specific type of beads such as ceramic or pottery beads just to find later that they are polymer clay. Often times sellers will list their bead as pottery or use terms like "ceramic look" or "lampwork look" just to be included in searches. It's confusing to buyers and misleading. Bordering on dishonest.

Once you determine what materials the beads are, you can then move on to quality and craftsmanship. 

Questions to ask yourself
  • Are there unlimited numbers of bead sets? If so, they are probably mass produced.
  • Are these made in a country that mass produces this type of bead. (such as China)
  • Who is listed as the shop owner? If the shop owner is not a single person or there is no photo of a person, they are probably mass produced beads.
Cindy's Art and Soul Beads Porcelain and Ceramic Handcrafted

What does the price tell me? If the beads are a few cents each, they are not maker beads. Everything is handmade by someone. But... is it handmade in a factory or handmade in a studio? That's the question. Beads take time to make and generally the price will reflect that. 

Many years ago I purchased ceramic beads through an Etsy seller that were porcelain and to my eyes, really cool beads. However, they were not glazed in the traditional way. They had powder coatings, that were very pretty but wore of very quickly leaving the beads dull and ugly. I do not recommend buying beads with powder coatings that are sealed with wax. The wax wears off and so do the coatings. I see these beads still being sold for top dollar on Etsy.

Look at the craftsmanship. Lets be honest here, are they wonky? Do the holes look clean and glazed evenly? Ask yourself as many questions as you can to determine who made them and what materials  they are made from. If you have read the title, description, country of origin, seller profile and you still aren't sure, move on! If it's that difficult to determine, chances are they are mass produced. Unless you are looking for that...

Another thing that is important to me are the photos. I feel like if you want to sell your product you can take the time to give your buyers more than one blurry photo. Etsy for example gives you the opportunity to upload five large sized photos to each listing. There's no reason to have one photo.

It all comes down to the fact that this marketplace used to be for makers is now wide open. Do your homework, and know what you are buying. Be picky. Discriminate. You can still get quality handcrafted goods, just be aware when you shop.
Cindy's Art & Soul Beads
If you find someone you like, bookmark their site. Ask if they have a mailing list. I find many sellers are leaving Etsy now and either selling on their own (like me!) or selling on Facebook. FB now has countless selling groups. The market is becoming saturated with a lot of mediocre low quality goods. Be discerning and support independent artists that you like whenever possible.

I recently realized that Etsy had blocked my store because I didn't have any live listings. Even though I had a notice in my shop that listings were coming soon, no one would see it because they had blocked my store. No amount of searching either within Etsy or off Etsy would find it.

So please, bookmark my store. 

Off Etsy you can always find me at (with a re-direct to)

You can always find me on Instagram at 

You can sometimes find me on Facebook, I'm not always active there, however. 

The best way to keep in touch with me is to get my newsletter. I send it out about every other month or so. And, I almost always include a promotion with links to new products.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. I will update this posting as I think of more ways to help you shop for beads.

 Look for new bead sets on Friday 3/31.
peace, love and happy beading


  1. Great blog Cindy! It is h and to find the right kind of beads when you don't have then in your hand. Thank you for all the pointers! I like you have bought beads thinking they were going to be good, but in the end, not! I think all us beaders/jewelry makers have experienced that. Trial and error!
    Thank you!

  2. Oh my. Your beads are so colorful! Beautiful work Cindy. You have endured so many changes in this handmade bead marketplace. Good for you to staying true to yourself and making from the heart.


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