5 Ways to Stretch Your Beading Budget

Beading and saving money are two topics near and dear to my heart.  My Celestial Sparkle necklace was inspired when I could only afford a single strand of borosilicate beads.  I wanted to showcase them in a necklace, but everyone who saw the tiny strand said I should just give up and make a bracelet.  Luckily, I didn't listen!  I found some relatively inexpensive clear teardrops to space out my more expensive treasures and ended up creating one of my favorite necklaces.

Ever since that experience I've been fascinated by the way other designers stretch their beading budget.  Here are five ideas to get maximum results with a minimum budget:

1.  Use the Real Thing in Small Amounts

The price of silver continues to rise, but that doesn't mean you need to avoid it altogether if you absolutely love it.  You'd be amazed at what you can do with a foot or meter of chain (usually the shortest amount you can buy).  If you have your heart set on a necklace, cut the chain up in smaller pieces and add strung strands in between as shown in Summer Charm by Sharon Grimes Knox.  Or use a small amount of silver chain for embellishment like Lisa Kan did in her Petit Fiore Earrings.

2.  Find Another Metal 

Just a few years ago, I had trouble finding anything except silver chain at my local bead shops.  Now many shops carry other choices like brass, copper, gunmetal, and plated gold.  These are substantially less expensive, making them an especially good choice for multistrand pieces like Cascading Tangle by Elaine Ray.  

3.  Use Seed Beads

If you enjoy beadweaving, try a project that uses a single color like the Bead Hoarder's Collage Bracelet by Jeannette Shanigan.  This way you won't have a lot of leftover beads in a variety of colors.  (Of course, if you're a diehard seedbeader, leftovers won't be a problem!)  If you're a stringer, use seed beads to add a bit of color and depth to a design without breaking the bank.  The Big Island Necklace by Leslie Rogalski uses black and white seed beads to add drama to a simple strung necklace.  Another good example is the Lovely Lariat Tassel by Viki Lareau.  Lariats require quite a few beads (this one measures 30-50 inches) and using seed beads not only adds visual interest, but substantially lowers the cost.  (Imagine making this same project using only crystals!)

4.  Focus on the Focal

Spend your money on a dramatic focal like the lampwork bead in the Spiral of Kronos necklace by Sandi Wiseheart and then use a small amount of other beads and ribbon to complete the piece. 

5.  Make Smaller Projects

Earrings are almost always the first suggestion when it comes to saving money in jewelry design.  It's a good idea as long as you realize that not all designs are created equally.  It is entirely possible to spend more money on an elaborate pair of earrings than a simple necklace made with low-cost materials!  

New Free Project
Indian Summer Earrings
Jill MacKay

These earrings from Beadwork magazine feature an eye-catching combination of pearls, smoky quartz, silver bead frames, and seed beads.   Most earrings use headpins or wires; these actually feature beading wire and crimps, making them perfect for beginners who have mastered the basics of stringing.  Instructions for a matching necklace may be found in the August/September issue of Beadwork

Any other money-saving tips to share?  Please post them on the website.

Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website. 

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