Vintage Jewelry Making and Beading Supplies Treasure Trove
On a Vintage Jewelry Making Adventure
At the close of Bead Fest this past August, Tammy Jones, JewelryMakingDaily.com editor, and I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City. We took a train in to the City to visit CJS Sales: Craft Jewelry Supply, home of vintage jewelry making and beading supplies. Our mission was to spend time with Carl and Elyse Schimel, the father daughter-duo behind CJS and to shop!
If you’ve never been to CJS, please believe me when I tell you, it’s like being inside a huge treasure chest. If you remember the Little Rascals episode where they sneak off to the cave to find the hidden treasure, it’s kind of like that. Unlike the cave and unhappy giant, you travel to CJS via the elevator and exit at the second floor. Upon the doors opening, you’re immediately greeted by a warm smile, a sturdy box to fill, and your first room filled with vintage jewelry-making materials. If you’re a new visitor, you’ll also be asked some information so they can verify you’re in the right place, have wholesale buying credentials, and have an idea of what’s in store. Immediately in front of you is floor to ceiling, shelves filled with Czech glass cabochons, glass beads, and a glimpse at a wall of Swarovski crystals.
Diving Into the Vintage Jewelry Making Materials
Before jumping right into searching (aka treasure hunting), Elyse, our gracious host, offered a more formal tour.
First on our vintage jewelry making materials tour, we pass the pearl room (filled with real and faux pearls. If you’re thinking about a trip, keep in mind, it’s up to you to know which pearl is which. And not everyone can take Tammy Jones along with them, so be prepared!).
After the pearl room came one of my favorite spaces, the metals room. A never-ending pool of amazing vintage jewelry making goodness, and all materials you can turn into new treasures. Again, it’s up to you to know what you’re looking at – copper, brass, plated, etc.
A Bit of Jewelry and Accessories History
Here we pause, and Elyse takes time to share more of the history of CJS with us. She explained the evolution of the company, from her father being a founder of Kim Craftsmen, a leading accessories manufacturer for over 50 years; his being a jewelry designer in his own right; to his near retirement before CJS became all it is today. Elyse also shared her evolution from Wharton college graduate, to her psychology doctorate, how she came to help her dad throughout her time in school, to becoming his partner at CJS Sales.
Elyse also offers this about CJS: “CJS is a designer’s quarry. By selling high-quality vintage jewelry making materials we can help bead shops and resellers have things they will be able to design with. And so they can compete with mass producers from overseas. Glass marcasite from the 20s can’t easily be copied within a good margin, so CJS would be a great source for what you need to design with versus having to source the vintage materials yourself.”
Making Our Way Through CJS Sales
As we progress through the metals rooms, we enter the “naturals” room where you can find bone, wood, and shell materials. Soon after we’re faced with lots of decisions. Plastics of all kinds – beautiful plastics – to chandelier parts. A lot of chandelier parts. Just ahead is the room of chains.
As we make our way back to the front of CJS we pass a rack of shelves that holds beautiful Swarovski sew-on stones. Not only are these pretty, they’re also extra special as Elyse had some of these stitched onto her wedding gown (along with other amazing treasures found at CJS).
A Seed Bead Mecca
Walking toward our next corner of the space, we pass another wall of crystal amazingness. Then we find ourselves in the seed bead room. This was definitely like climbing through a tunnel into a huge cave opening. And wow! There was no shortage of vintage beads here! Vintage Italian bugle beads, vintage Czech striped beads, mercury-glass-like Czech glass seed beads, and boxes and boxes of so much more.
One funny story I’ll add. While searching for striped seed beads, Elyse came into the room to help me. This being her place, she was much more comfortable hefting and moving boxes. Once I saw her method, soon we were both moving and hefting boxes in search of the stripe seed beads I was searching for. Once we found some (a lot, actually), Elyse moved on to greet new customers and see if she could help Tammy. Soon after, one of our newly formed towers of seed bead boxes tipped over, blocking my exit from the room (back to the cave and the little rascals!). This was an easy fix and with some rearranging all was righted, but it was one of those moments you wish you had captured on video!
The Man Behind the Brand, The Master of Vintage Jewelry Making Supplies
Before finishing up our tour, Elyse was very kind to share with us her father’s office. We didn’t get into the space but she gave us a peek. It’s definitely one of those rooms you wish you had a few days to spend in as you know it is the space of a genius, and likely where Carl has saved things that are near and dear to him.
Another element of this tour was the knowledge the current warehouse would not be the Schimel’s forever home. They recently lost their lease. The building’s new owners have different plans for the space. The Schimels are currently liquidating to become more nimble and able to move to their new location. If you are a designer, the Schimels want to welcome you to their place. They love to share all they’ve acquired in the hopes of helping designers be able to create with quality materials. And to give them access to materials otherwise not available to mass producers. They want to give jewelry designers an edge over the competition; the heart of their mission all these years.
Off on Our Next Adventure
Eventually, Tammy and I had to bid our farewells and did so with the promise to return. On our train ride home, I shared some of my finds with Tammy and together we agreed that much of what I collected would be great for designs found in our Bead Embroidery with the Masters Collection. I can see it now, pearl cabochon surrounded by the glowing Italian bugle beads, Swarovski sew-on stones, and beautiful collection of Czech seed beads.
If you’ve been to CJS and seen the vintage jewelry making materials haven, please add a comment and share your story and best finds. If you were one of the lucky ones to secure this vintage collection of beads and beading materials (available while supplies last), curated during this amazing adventure, be sure to stop back and upload a picture to our member gallery.
Thank you Mr. Schimel and Elyse. You gave the 2 Tammys a great experience, and one we’ll always remember. And, with all we procured, we have lots of great materials to work into unique wearable pieces of new jewelry for a long time.
Yours in creativity,
PS. Be sure to visit JewelryMakingDaily.com to check out Tammy’s perspective on this great trip.