Get to Know
Welcome to our adventure!
At Jewelry Quest Design and Beads we have a passion for beautiful beads.
In recent years, however, we have become disenchanted with the quality of beads, the high cost - sometimes at exorbitant prices for the quality - fluctuating price extremes from one seller to the next, misrepresentation of quality, new bead designs that are beautiful but expensive, and a general atmosphere of acceptance, or simply not knowing what to do about it.
Quality will always be quality. There is, and always will be, a difference between 'A' material and 'C/D' material. The truth is, if beautiful gemstone material is mined it will be cut and used for setting in a high end piece of jewelry, not sold as material for bead cutting.
Does this make all gemstone material for beads 'substandard'? Yes. But that's if you compare it only to the original high quality material that is mined.
Mining operations don't just look for high end material. If they limited themselves to this, they would be out of business. What can't be used in a beautiful, high quality piece of jewelry will be separated for sale to various industries. Bead manufacturers purchase the 'substandard' material and separate it according to grade.
Bead grading is not, and should not be, compared to the sought after high end jewelry gemstone. It is a separate class, very subjective, and has no regulatory standard at this time. There is a current discussion and debate among gemologists and the gemstone industry to put in place a regulatory standard for beads. With justification, much of the concern developed as a result of the impact to the gem trade and selling markets of high end gemstones from unscrupulous bead merchants selling gemstone beads under false pretense of quality and price.
There are extremes in the debate, and common sense needs to prevail. Beads are not in the same class as high end gemstones, and therefore, the same standards for grading should not apply. Could you imagine the cost of a 'AAA' bead strand of Amethyst if the same standard for high end gems were established for it? Yet, without a system, buyers are at the mercy of suppliers who misrepresent the quality of a gemstone bead. This, too, is unacceptable. We hope that a grading system for beads is established and regulated. When we shop for beads, we look for grading. If it isn't there, we ask. But we always keep in mind the subjective nature of bead grading.
Since there isn't a grading system for beads, many - including Jewelry Quest Design and Beads - use the grading system developed for high end gems. 'A' 'AA' 'AAA', and so on. Because it is a subjective matter, and not regulated at this time, it is important to know the standard by which your supplier establishes his/her grading.
Here are the general rules Jewelry Quest Design and Beads uses for grading and it can vary according to the type of stone for determining undesirable traits. An example of a variation is Rutilated Quartz because desirable material will always have inclusions, rutiles.
1. We examine the color.
Is the color deeply saturated, medium or light? Is there color zoning? For certain stones - Amethyst and Citrine, for example, - zoning can be very common. Natural, untreated stones, almost always have a lighter color saturation, and yet, because of the stones 'natural state' -without treatment or enhancement - and in today's market becoming more rare - a Natural Stone has an inherent state of quality. Some gemstones are highly desirable based on the place of origin because the quality in color is rich and has depth. African Amethyst is highly prized for it's deep royal purple, often with pink undertones. Brazilian Amethyst has wonderful lighter hues of lavender. Lapis Lazuli from Pakistan and Afghanistan is a beautiful ultramarine. Mozambique Garnet is a breathtaking 'black/red' color. The list could go on and on. If possible, find out the place of origin for the Stones you are interested in purchasing. Certain places, based on the chemical and mineral structuring in the environment, impact the quality of creating a gemstone that, in it's own class and type, rises above the rest.
2. We examine the cut.
Is it faceted? The facets need to be well made to create the reflective beauty of the stone. Wider facets don't create as much brilliance. Smaller, micro facets, can add dimension and sparkle. Is the overall cut unusual, a new design, well faceted? It will be 'AAA'. Is the cut symmetrical? Most handcut material will have variations. The rating will drop even if the other 'C's' are in place.
3. We examine clarity.
Are there inclusions? Are they desirable inclusions for the type of stone? For example, - and this is purely subjective - we love pyrite in Lapis Lazuli, but we don't like calcite in it. A nicely faceted, deeply colored ultramarine or violet blue Lapis bead with eye visible pyrite will rate 'AAA'. We also like dendritic fernlike inclusions in Peruvian Opal. Not so that it overwhelms the color, but enough to add depth and interest. Emeralds, even high quality Emeralds, have inclusions. Garnet, especially in larger size rounds, can have flat ends, and obvious internal characteristics.
Most stones, unless they are high end jewelry making gemstones, have inclusions. We will indicate the degree with these terms:
Eye Clean - no visible inclusions.
Slight - very little, almost unseen.
Some Internal Natural Characteristics: Inclusions are visible, but not overwhelming.
Internal Natural Characteristics - Inclusions are visible, and obvious to the eye.
Highly Included: Lots of inclusion, very evident. We usually don't buy this material.
Additionally, we look for pits, scratches, chips, cloudiness and clean drilling.
Polish has to be nice.
If everything is in place, it will be 'AAA'.
If everything is in place except for slight inclusions, and the cut is unique, faceted or larger, it will be 'AAA'.
When a bead is 'B/C/D', we will not add grading to the selling information.
We hope this gives you an understanding for our grading. In our 20+ years of learning about, exposure to, and purchase of beads for designs we have immeasurable hands on experience. We developed particular standards for beads that exhibit quality and brilliance. We don't want anything less, and will not sell anything less.
We pledge to provide you as much detail about our beads as we can so that you can make the best educated decision for your purchase. We ventured into selling beads because we wanted to provide the best quality beads at the best possible price. Yes, we need to make a profit, but we don't need to extort based on the original price we paid. Knowing the quality of a bead, and the original price paid for it has given us an interesting perspective on the quality of beads we see for sale and the prices being indicated.
We always encourage our customers to educate themselves about gemstone beads, quality and pricing. We spent months researching beads from around the world, gathering information. This much we have learned ... most often, bead buyers are paying too much. While there are no set rules, if there's a bead you like and want, no matter what the quality, you will buy it. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, but many times not. Lower prices usually indicate lower quality, but higher prices on quality material is often much too high. Many times, the grade or quality indicated by the seller isn't what you get.
We decided to sell quality beads when, as jewelry designers, we purchased some Amethyst round beads from a well known retail bead company - we won't say who it was - that were graded 'A'. We didn't expect perfection, but we couldn't use over half of the beads due to quality issues. Essentially, we paid a higher price overall for the beads we could use.
We believe that the prices and quality of our beads is exceptional. While we can't always provide the price we want based on original cost, market fluctuations, and material availability, we will endeavor to keep the price as low as we can and the quality high. We will continue to search for suppliers who will provide the same or better quality for better prices so we can bring that price to you. We have removed the middleman and it makes a difference in our cost and brings savings to you.
Our grading, like all bead grading, is subjective but our standards are high.
Our desire is to give designers and beading hobbyists the beads that we would want at the prices we would want and know to pay.
This is our Pledge and Promise.
For designers who are selling their artistic creations, getting the best beads at the best price is crucial to success.
If you have questions or comments about our beads, please email us. We will provide you with the information you need to the best of our ability.
Happy Beading Everyone!
Jewelry Quest Design and Beads
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