Thursday, March 29, 2012

One weekend, two cities (Part 1)

One week ago, I was planning this trip to Washington DC for the National Cherry Blossom festival and I was not disappointed! Before I drove down to DC on Friday, I stopped by the Whole Bead Show in New York City that I learned about from Pretty Smart Ideas. The show was held in a nice building called the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th and 7th. As soon as I stepped in, I went crazy and lost my mind. It was my first time going to a bead show and I was totally unprepared. I wasn't planning on getting anything and I did not have a budget. But I ended up spending $100+ on gemstones and I got a lot of business cards. It was the wildest shopping experience I've ever had in New York. It was crazier than Black Friday sale and I am not kidding.

A quick glance at the room, you see a sea of boothes. Some selling gemstones, some selling plastic & vintage beads, some selling tribal findings etc. Most of the vendors were from New York City. Some were from upstate New York and some came from New Jersey. Since my store does mostly precious and semi-precious stones, I spent most of my time in the Indian gem booths. There were incredible deals - almost all the gemstone booths offered 40-60% off marked price. Just to give you an idea, a 16" strand of AA grade aquamarine 8mm heart briolette would normally cost around $120 and I was able to get it for $50. I could not believe my eyes and I certainly did not want to miss this amazing opportunity to stock up some gems. I visited about 6 tables and ended up getting some ruby, emerald (two of the most expensive precious stones next to diamond), aquamarine, rose quartz, white crystal quartz, solar quartz and some miscellaneous semi-precious stones. 

I also checked out some Chinese vendors selling pearls and other normal beads. Prices were also good. I saw some $1, $3, $5 and $10 baskets of gorgeous beads and findings. If I needed them for my store, I'd have totally bought them. 

Overall, it was such an amazing experience. Next year when the show comes to town, I'll go prepared and well equipped. If you haven't been to any of those shows before, I'd strongly encourage you to go at least once.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cherry Blossom planning continues...

Still planning for Cherry Blossom trip to DC. I just love sakura so much. I just want to live with them.

Different ways to wear cherry blossom

I was wondering what I should wear for the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC this weekend and look what I found?

Which one do you want to wear?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vintage Kim Craftsmen: Collector's Information

Founded by Carl and Marty Schimel in the 1950s, Kim Craftsmen was a household name for affordable and stylish jewelry. When the Schimel's started the company in 1950, they were doing wholesale jewelry in New York City. The brothers started under the name C & M Jewelry, and purchased finished goods from manufacturers to be resold to retailers. As C & M Jewelry gained accounts and clients, its resale product line expanded accordingly. Carl and Marty Schimel took naturally to the jewelry business and their wholesaling enterprise flourished in its infancy.

It didn’t take long, however, for the Schimel brothers to discover they should forge their own path. In light of increased markups and dwindling profits, they realized their role as a wholesaler was constantly shortchanged by the industry and felt the crunch on both sides. Their business instinct and artistic nature led them to venture from wholesaling to manufacturing their own line of jewelry.

Learning the nature of the jewelry trade firsthand, they began their manufacturing endeavor with confidence. The brothers acquired metals and findings to work with, good quantities of copper in particular, which was proving popular during the 1950s. They used raw copper, hammering and manipulating it into pieces like twisted upper arm bracelets and rings, abstract shaped pins, and articulated necklaces.

Unmarked, 14k Gold plated upper arm bracelet by Vintage Kim Craftsmen 1970s.
The trade name C & M Jewelry changed to Kim Copper in 1952. "Kim," the brothers felt, was a simple, feminine name, outlining exactly what they sought to achieve in the young women’s jewelry market. Around 1958, when the company expanded into materials beyond copper, the Schimels' started a second line called Kim Craftsmen.

The Schimel brothers were mass producing their designs and they used their own platers, hammerers, and solderers in the assembly process. They methodically trained all of their employees, and quality remained extremely important to them. Every piece was carefully checked before it was released to the market, and there was always an unconditional guarantee – any Kim piece could be returned at any time, for any reason. Customers could confidently buy Kim jewelry.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Supply store review: Suma Beads Gems & Pearls

I've been shopping for beads and gemstones in New York City for more than a year now. I'd always go to the same stores on the 6th Ave and it's getting boring and routine. I've always wanted to discover new stores, especially for pearls and gemstones. Genuine Ten Ten is just too expensive and they don't have a lot of gemstone options. One day as I was hunting for citrine heart briolettes, I ran into some gemstone stores on 37th St. There are two gemstone stores run by Indian whole sellers. As you know, India produces a lot of high quality gemstones. As soon as I saw the stores, I had to dash inside to take a look. So in this entry I'll do a mini review of one of the stores - the one where I bought my citrine stones.

I took a picture of the store front from across the street. This store is located at the corner of 6th Ave / 37th St. From this picture you can already see a huge collection of gemstones hanging on the wall. Most of the precious and semi-precious gemstone beads are in the back of the store. Some strands are marked with price tags, some aren't. The strands without price tags are priced by weight. I bought my citrine from this store. As far as the quality is concerned, they're not the AAA highest quality, but with some digging and patience, you can find some A-AA quality gemstones for a pretty good price. They do wholesale and retail. If you have your tax ID, you could get the wholesale price. I didn't have my tax ID with me at the time and they still gave me a small discount. I was happy about it.

In the middle of the store, on the display tables, there is a HUGE collection of pearls of all kind. You can also find new arrivals and discounted items there too. The staff are nice - at least they were nice to me. There was another customer in the store at the time I was shopping. This customer was bargaining with the store owner on the phone and her tone of voice didn't sound very nice. However, the staff managed to remain polite and nice so I think they did a very good job.

Here is a picture of the citrine 10mm heart briolettes I got. Champagne yellow and orange-ish flares. The color is more intense in person. Good clarity. Good reflection of light (they really sparkle and I love using them for my jewelry). No internal fracture. Overall very good quality.

All gemstones and pearls are sold in strands so you have to buy wholesale volumes. For the citrine that I bought, I think I got them at a good price. There is a bunch of pearls and gemstones that are on discount. I believe if you spend enough time browsing in the store, you will get something quality at good prices.

For gemstones, you might be able to get better prices online, but I'd rather buy from physical stores, especially after I found Suma. It's not just about touching and examining the stones in person. From my experience buying gemstones online, you pay for expensive shipping (because gemstones are heavy) and wait for a LONG time when you order directly from Indian manufacturers. International shipping takes a long time. Sometimes the gemstones may turn out to be different from your expectation. After doing that for several times, I thought it's really not worth it, especially when you're running a business and you don't want to gamble on the quality of your products. I'm glad I found this store. I'll definitely go to them when I need gemstones.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Jewelry material: Rhodium

What is rhodium?

Rhodium is a naturally occurring metal element. It is frequently used in the jewelry trade as a surface plating to make silver items more resistant to tarnishing. Rhodium is slightly darker than silver and gives items a more "steely" look.

Jewelry material: Gold-filled

What is Gold-Filled?

Gold-filled is a United States layered gold product that is gaining popularity throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. It is a quality material that is common in all types of jewelry. The product is easy to care for and will usually maintain its golden shine for a lifetime.

Gold-filled is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal is jewelers’ brass. A gold alloy is then bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core with heat and pressure. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers for use in designs.

Gold-filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. This 5% is then described by the karatage of the gold alloy. Most gold-filled is 12kt or 14kt gold-filled. It is most accurately labeled with the karatage, the “/” symbol, and then 20 to reflect this construction. Products are identified as 14/20 Gold-filled or 12/20 Gold-Filled; alternatively, 14kt Gold-Filled or 12kt Gold-Filled are also acceptable.

Care and Cleaning
Gold-filled does not de-laminate or peel like plated products. Nor does it tarnish as readily as silver. Many owners find that they never have to clean gold-filled items at all. However, from time to time your jewelry may become dirty from everyday wear. To clean gold-filled it is best to use mild soap and water. Hot weather and water will not damage the material.

Gold-filled cannot be melted because it is a layered product. Similarly, exposure to chemicals or acids will damage the gold layers and erode the product’s integrity. Gold-filled is not recommended in extremely humid environments where there are also high levels of pollutants in the air. This is not a problem in any US states we know of, but we have had reported problems in South-Central Mexico and parts of Asia.

Comparison with Other Gold Products
Solid Gold – Solid gold is an alloy that is described with the karatage of pure gold. Pure gold is 24kt. However, it is much too soft to hold its shape or wear well. Therefore, it is mixed or alloyed with other metals to make it harder and easier to work with. Karatage refers to the alloy’s purity. For example, 8 karat gold is 8/24 pure gold or 33.3% pure. Gold-filled is not the same as solid gold. It is a layered alternative product. The gold-filled karatage only refers to the gold layers that compose 5% of the product on the surface.

Gold Plate – Gold plating is a miniscule layer of solid gold applied to a brass base. The plating does not compose any measurable proportion of the products total weight. It is estimated to be 0.05% or less of the metal product. Gold plating will wear off rather quickly and expose the brass base product. It does not stand up to heat, water or wear over time.
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