After bemoaning the lack of bead shops in London I decided to get off my butt and go visit the few that we do have. So this will be the first in a series of posts where I’ll be telling you all about the stores that I visit.
First up was Beadworks in Covent garden. Beadworks opened in 1977 and is apparently the oldest bead shop in Europe. They sell retail, wholesale and online. Here’s how I rated my visit.
Appearance & Service: The store has two floors, street level and a basement level. The street level floor is nice and bright and the beads are laid out around the walls and on tables and stands in rows on the floor. The store isn’t huge so it is abit tight moving past other shoppers, but it’s easy enough to find what you’re looking for. The basement is home to the semi precious beads and sterling silver. They also have a table set up where it looks like they make jewellery, which was a nice touch. The lightning in the basement, whilst being fine for me, seems to be an issue for some. As I was browsing I heard a customer who had come to return a semi precious strand complain that the beads were not the colour they appeared to be in the basement light. It’s worth noting here that the store doesn’t offer refunds or exchanges on semi precious strands but as a goodwill gesture, they allowed the woman to choose another strand so nice big tick for customer service. Perhaps a top tip would be to take your semi precious strands upstairs for a proper look in natural light. Another note on service, the ladies working here were nice and polite, I was acknowledged as I came in but then left to get on with it. No-one stalked me as I browsed and it was definitely appreciated.
Stock: They have a lot of glass beads and crystals sold both singly and in strands/packs. There were some nice large faceted jewel coloured glass beads which I loved the look of but couldnt think what to do with them. They also had a nice selection of coloured leather cord (including 1mm size which I use a ton of and is always the hardest to get hold of) and a good selection of waxed cotton cord. I would have liked for them to have a wider selection of wood beads (personal preference) but they do also have a selection of clay, lamp-work enamel & metal beads, so they do have a little of everything. Downstairs in the basement they had a decent selection of gemstones with some nice shapes but not a wide range of sizes, especially for rounds. I use rounds a lot so I like to be able to get sizes from 4mm through to 20mm, but I appreciate that this is a big ask for most stores.
Prices: Moderate – high. Most beads are sold singly which means the costs can rack up if you’re making necklaces and multi-stranded pieces. The same can be said for findings. I was quite surprised by the amount of findings sold singly, what am I supposed to do with one jump ring?? You can also buy in bulk here so I assume that’s how you would make savings, but I didn’t query this with the staff. The 1mm leather cord cost 60p per metre which isn’t too bad, the waxed cord was much more of a bargain at £1.35 for 10m. Expectedly, the gemstones were a small fortune. Chips were sold by the strand for roughly £8 per strand, other gemstones strands were tens of pounds. Sometimes I’m happy to pay that little bit extra to shop in store, touch stuff, see the true colour, feel the texture and weight, but frequent shopping at Beadworks would leave me bankrupt!!
Overall Verdict: This shop is perfect for people who have a certain project to complete from a beading magazine as they can come here as a one stop shop, and buy exactly what they need and no more. As someone who buys beads by the strand and on more of an ad hoc/stash building basis, it’s not ideal for me. Having said that, it’s worth a stop if you’re looking for one or two interesting beads for earrings or a pendant and I did purchase a bunch of waxed cotton cord and two carved wood drop beads (at 52p a bead) that would make nice earrings for my Mum.
Until next time.