This post will deal with the latter (the former is a whole 'nother post in itself) and, even then, only under a very specific lens.
Jewelry artists: have you ever wondered why artisan quality lampwork is so much more than the cheap, and admittedly sometimes cute, strands you find at the bead stores and shows?
One word: Quality.
Now, I am not going to try to say that every artisan is producing perfect beads. But I can say that the imports are definitely inferior. Why does this affect you as a jewelry designer? This is why:
|Yep. Broken beads right on the shelf.|
I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, but it was part of a highly covert operation. Most stores do not like it when you take photos of broken merchandise. It makes it look, well, cheap.
The most likely reason for a broken lampwork bead is usually that it wasn't made properly to begin with. While some round or thicker beads can withstand the test of time without being annealed, today's fancy beads, *especially* flattened ones MUST be annealed. And the annealing must be in a kiln to be done properly. And that costs a lot of money. Money which the factories will not spend (because then prices will have to increase). They may try to get by with flame annealing or using fiber blankets to protect somewhat against thermal shock, but the beads will not be annealed.
Now, ask yourself: do you want to use beads that may break on the strand for no reason? Do you think your customers will appreciate it if they go to put on a bracelet you made and one of the pretty glass beads splits in two and falls off? That is why it is good practice as a jewelry artist to use quality handmade materials. It's not an issue of snobbery, or being an elitist over materials. It's good business sense to make products that are beautiful *and* stand up to everyday use.
I know there are other components in the jewelry field that should be looked at closely when trying to decide if that "good deal" is really good for your business. I would be interested in hearing from other artists, especially if they make components, on how some of the imports may not be up to snuff quality-wise.
I understand this can be a sensitive discussion, so if you would feel more comfortable emailing me your comments, which I will post under my name, or leaving your comment as "anonymous", that is totally understandable. I really just want to hear what people have to say!