Fire Mountain Gems

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Fire Mountain Gems and Beads is, in a sense, the McMaster Carr of the jewelry world. The company’s 400-plus page print catalog, with its to-scale photos of beads, gems, clasps and findings (roughly, the jewelry-making hardware), rivals any catalog in terms of introducing creative possibilities, and enticing you to buy stuff. For me, having the physical catalog makes navigating the extensive website easier.

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If you’re interested in making bead jewelry, I’d recommend taking a beginner’s class at a local bead store to get started and gain a basic familiarity with the tools. I took a wire wrap class at a local shop and then had a foundation from which I was able to learn knotting and stringing pearls watching Fire Mountain’s instructional videos.

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One of my favorite aspects of having even a basic ability to make jewelry is that I’m always able to create a last-minute gift, at least for friends whose taste is similar to mine. I keep a small stash of beads and findings around, and then can put together a pair of earrings in 10 minutes—a personal, homemade gift I didn’t have to go to the store to buy.

-- Bryn MacKinnon