Jewelry Making Supplies: Treasure Hunting for Vintage Metal Stampings, Crystals, Chain & More in NYC

My goodness, what an adventure I have to share with you today! After Bead Fest Summer in Philly back in August, Beading Daily editor Tammy Honaman and I had a very special invitation to visit CJS Sales in New York City for the ultimate shopping spree for jewelry making supplies. After more than 50 years at the same location, this iconic craft and jewelry making supply warehouse has lost their lease and is decreasing inventory before moving. (Learn more about CJS Sales.) So the Tammys made a mad dash to New York City; we only had a few hours, but we made the most of this awesome shopportunity!

metal stampings and other jewelry making supplies at CJS Sales

I don’t know where to begin describing how awesome it was. First, though I’ve traveled all over the country, somehow I’d only driven through NYC before this trip–so just being in the city was a treat. The energy is just spectacular, and I took the strangest joy in hearing the taxis honk! Even the sidewalks sparkled on the way to our shopping spree–so fitting!

So back to the jewelry making supplies. CJS owners Carl Schimel and his daughter Elyse welcomed us to their jewelry paradise, gave us a tour and a box, and set us free. There was a chain room, a pearl room (“Some are real, some are not, it’s just up to you to know the difference,” Elise said. Oh my!), a seed bead area (shapes, sizes, and colors I’ve never seen before), a vintage metal stampings room (boxes of brass and copper stampings from floor to ceiling, two or three boxes deep on the shelves), and a room of random finds like chandelier crystals, old salesman sample boards, various wood and plastic beads, finished jewelry pieces, rhinestone buckles and clasps, and so much more. I can’t even remember what all I saw, because I was itching to get back to the metal stampings room to find these lovelies:

vintage metal stampings from CJS Sales

Guess what’s in all these boxes? One word: Swarovski!

vintage Swarovski crystals at CJS Sales

This is the vintage Swarovski area–and by vintage, I mean some of these boxes are full of Swarovski crystal packets that are so old, they aren’t even marked Swarovski. They’re labeled with Daniel Swarovski’s (Swartz) initials and logo or K.S. & Co., which is what the original company name (A. Kosman, Daniel Swartz & Co.) was shortened to sometime after founding in 1895. Shelf after shelf, lined with box after box, filled with packet after packet of sparkling vintage beauties that have been wrapped in tissue for decades. I felt like I was stealing crown jewels from a museum, it was so spectacular.

vintage Swarovski crystal packets from CJS Sales

I was like a kid in a candy store. No, that’s not enough. I was like a kid who had just been given the keys to a big sparkly candy manufacturing company. It was just a little messier than that, ha! But digging through (and climbing over) boxes of jewelry making supplies and countless treasures just added to the thrill of the hunt. Want to see some more of the treasures I found?

vintage leather, Czech crystals, and beads from CJS Sales

First, some random pieces and found objects. I mentioned the chandelier crystals above, and I found this strand of vintage Czech Republic crystal beads just lying on the floor! The silvery ones with the checkerboard surface and unique shape were random must-haves for me, but I haven’t inspected them closely yet to see what they’re made of, because they actually feel like metal. And for some reason, I was really drawn to this strip of old (and kind of dirty) yellow suede. I love that crazy color! And it feels so soft; it’s going to be an amazing cuff or two, eventually–just you wait and see!

pearly oval "chain" loops

It might seem like a shocker for The Pearl Girl to fall for these faux pearl plastic loops, but I did. I have no idea how old they are, but they have a beautiful color and soft patina that looks like it has stood the test of time. I’ll probably use them with sterling silver handmade chain links, with chain links I got from Halstead (more on that soon), or with fiber links . . . so many possibilities.

vintage wood, plastic, glass, and other beads at CJS Sales

I don’t do much beading, so I didn’t take full advantage of the tons of gorgeous vintage glass, plastic, wood, and who-knows-what beads in every color and so many unique shapes, but I absolutely appreciated the vintage Swarovski crystals in delicate packets that have been hidden away for literally decades. Elyse kindly gave me an old salesman’s display box with a handful of various shapes and sizes of Swarovski crystals inside, which I adore, and I also got a few packets of crystals in beautiful shades of blue and rose as well as the colorless ones I mentioned above. I’m not sure how I’ll use them, but I sure love unfolding their pretty little packets and gazing at them!

 vintage chain and other jewelry making supplies at CJS Sales

There was so much vintage brass and copper chain that I was almost too overwhelmed to get some by the time I made my way into that area–but I managed to get a bit and I’m already planning on hitting that room first when I go back. I forgot my #1 rule of jewelry making shopportunities: buy now, figure it out later. Hindsight!

new and vintage rhinestone jewelry making supplies from CJS Sales

I always love just about anything with clear rhinestones, especially vintage pieces that I can put to work as jewelry making supplies, so I felt very lucky to find these rhinestone-encrusted buckles and clasps–some vintage, some not so old. Every bit of the surface of the clasps is engraved or embellished in some way. I love the craftsmanship involved when even the backs of things are pretty (like Nunn Design products, with pretty designs on the back).

vintage red crystal jewelry making supplies from Paris

Possibly my absolute favorites of all the favorites are these gorgeous antique red crystals with fancy dark brass frames. They were in a small package of not-too-many, so I only took a few–can’t be too greedy! The package was marked “Paris, France” and a date in the early 1900s. Swoon! I’m so in love with them.

Elyse Schimel at CJS Sales

Elyse Schimel at CJS Sales

I couldn’t be more grateful to Elyse and her charming father Mr. Schimel for allowing us to visit their warehouse–and to be able to shop for jewelry making supplies there was a cherry on top of the most amazing sundae. I estimate I saw about 1/40th of what they have to offer, so I’m already planning a trip back before Christmas with an informed game plan this time! If you have a wholesale license and want to go on a treasure hunt for craft and jewelry making supplies, please follow CJS Sales on Facebook and contact them to make arrangements. Be sure to wear comfy shoes and clothes appropriate for a treasure hunt of this magnitude! (Please remember it is strictly wholesale only.)

Lilian Chen's wire and crystal earrings

I’ve always loved Lilian Chen’s graphic wire shapes and jewelry designs. I think her Angled 3-D Earrings from 10 Wire and Crystal Projects are the perfect way to feature a special crystal like some of the ones I got at CJS Sales. I might even make these as pendants.

Now I have all of these amazing vintage Swarovski and other crystals to use in my jewelry, which is outside my normal area of jewelry making supplies, so I’m looking for inspiration and projects. I found these great resources for working with crystals, wire, and vintage jewelry making supplies¬† in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop: the 10 Wire and Crystal Projects eBook featuring 10 projects from a range different jewelry artists (plus 10 More Wire & Crystal Projects), sparkle queen Kristal Wick’s video, Mixed Media: Jewelry Making with Handmade Beads, Crystals, Resin, and More (who better to inspire jewelry making with crystals?), Tammy Honaman’s Chunky Multistrand Pearl and Crystal Wire Necklace how-to video download, and for all those buckles and found objects, the lovely video Romantic Bezels: Mixed-Media Jewelry From Found Objects.

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