A Czech Bead Visit Tutorial

A couple of questions from some of our guests regarding Czech bead types and brands reminded me that just because one is a beader doesn’t mean one has all the information about all the beads.  This little tutorial will for some of you be informative, and for some of you will be too much information – I’m always guilty of too much information. Take from it what you will…
Let me start with a brief introduction of myself and Jon so you will know the source of the information. I am a retired bead store owner. Mind you, I am not old enough to retire. I just decided in 2014 I was ready to do something different, so after 9 years in business I had an opportunity to sell my store in Columbus.  Jon Kubricht owns DaBeads, one of a few major bead suppliers to stores in the US. His primary business is Czech beads and he works with several suppliers in the Czech Republic.  Now, about bead manufacturing in the Czech Republic…
Forget everything you know about US manufacturing and branding. With the exception of Preciosa Ornella, there are NO brand names that you will know from the Czech Republic, even though you will know many of the beads. While some of the companies there do have names, all of them sell wholesale to suppliers like Jon, and except for Preciosa (who is attempting to compete with Swarovski) they do not try to sell their “brand” in the US.  Additionally, some of the companies are just little mom and pop operations that Jon knows by the name of the person he works with – Roman for instance – you’ll meet him.
You don’t use them… well you may use some of those nifty cut charlottes for the look sometimes… but for the most part serious bead weavers use Japanese seed beads. Now there are some lovely hanks of Vintage Czech seed beads floating around, and one of our vendors may have some with them, but, otherwise the production of seed beads in the CZK pretty much got absorbed by Preciosa Ornella who supplies them to stores like JoAnns and Michaels as cheap seed beads. (Yes, I am a bonafide bead snob and I like my seed beads uniform!)
You will have the chance to buy some, but they were never included on the published agenda. The very few places that may be left that are making them are often single person operations who we cannot visit.
Like Swarovski, you can visit there but they do NOT show their manufacturing process to anyone… well I mean it’s not Oz, but if you don’t have the secret password…. Their showroom does have some lovely crystal chandeliers if you’re in the market. We went there on my first visit – not too exciting.
CZECH BEAD MANUFACTURING IS LIKE THE POLAR ICE CAPS… little by little we are losing more of them.
Thanks to factors like reduced shipping rates from China that have flooded the US market w/ cheap Chinese beads (there’s an interesting blurb on that here – scroll down to the date Oct 2016), the 2008 collapse in the US economy which effected the then booming beading industry in the US, and other shifts in the market, the Czech manufacturers have been going out of business just like our US bead stores. When I was there with Jon on my first trip in 2008, Jon then predicted that we had better come see it while we could, because it could all be gone in 5-10 years. Even as late as last spring we had one of my favorite manufacturing facilities on the agenda to visit on Jill’s first tour, only to find out that they closed their doors 2 months earlier. Fortunately there are still some manufacturers left who are surviving by constantly innovating and creating new and interesting beads. Those are the ones you will get to visit.
We are going to take you directly into the manufacturing building of one of Jon’s suppliers – Jon has the secret password! They will show you every machine and how it works with a guide explaining it. You’ll be able to run your hands through vats of newly created beads and hear them tumble into the sorting machine.  You’ll be told NOT to touch the ones that just came out of the kiln. No OSHA laws here! You’ll get to stand next to the gal as she cuts the beads. And you’ll say, as we all did, “After watching that, I can’t believe the beads don’t cost more!” You’ll get to watch them hand-sorting beads for quality and stand in a room full of more beads than you thought existed.  And then we’ll let you shop! We are also visiting a glass (not bead) manufacturing facility that we could hardly pull people out of on the last trip.


Well, that list was just too much fun not to print it out in full so you could see. Do you need to take a breath? Ask for your inheritance money now? Rob a bank?  I assure you that there will be so many beads to choose from that you’ll… well girls you know what we do when we get really excited! Sorry guys.  Don’t know what all of those are?  Click here.  Or here.  And get acquainted with the vast, exciting world of Czech Beads!
Because Jon’s vendors have access to them, even if they don’t personally make all of them. And they want to accommodate YOU!  I’m told Roman may even have some crystals with him. We have told him you like them! If you don’t know what all those beads are above, no worries. There will be a 3-page quiz on the bus before you can shop… uhum, kidding. Just let us know if there are some you’ve seen in stores before that you’d like to get your hands on more. Or maybe you clicked on one of those links and saw beads you didn’t know existed, but you’d like to play.  Whatever your motivation is, let us know what you are hot for, and Jon’s folks will work their magic. Our goal is that you will walk away, like out last group did, panting for more and very much hoping to get to come do it again!
Here’s wishing you beady dreams!