I’ve just come back from the most amazing adventure: I went to CJS at 16 W. 36th St., in Manhattan. I had no idea that it was there until they joined Facebook and friended me. The website says that they have a whole floor of closeouts,buyouts, and other miscellaneous items, but I had no idea.
They give you a cardboard packing box and then you start out. They have stacks upon stacks of jewelers’ boxes of vintage Swarovski and Austrian crystals of all colors, shapes, and sizes(some so old that the labels say “made in the Austrian State of Germany”). Vintage glass beads are stacked at one end of the floor, (some labeled “Occupied Japan”). You dig and dig, and keep coming up with more and more and more. In one area they have vintage base metal chain by the spool or in bags and miscellaneous findings. Another section contains wood beads, another plastic beads. Everywhere you turn, there is something else yummy to want.
Your box grows heavy, reminding you that you are going to be paying $20/lb. for your loot. The boxes of Swarovskis go for @$20, and may contain up to a gross of crystals – mostly things to set or glue on, although I did find a box of jet beads. The good and the bad is that there is no minimum purchase, but they take cash only for purchases under $100 ( Credit/debit cards can only be used for purchases over $100), and you must have a Tax ID. (When I realized that I was, in fact, going to want to buy something, I took my half-filled, way heavy box over and asked how much that was going to cost me, and realized that, if I wanted to pay the rent, I was going to have to leave some of those things behind. Beads are really heavy, and I did originally have 3 boxes of Swarovskis in there as well.
The place is a little daunting at first, as, when you go in, there are just piles and piles of boxes, and it looks as if no one is there at all. As soon as you bump into something, however, a jolly fellow will shout out for you to come on in. With trepidation, you stumble toward the voice, and find a fellow in a small clearing. He invites you to throw your coat and excess baggage over a chair, and then takes you on a tour of the place (I worried that I might easily become lost, however he told me that, so far, no one had ever gotten lost, or left behind at closing.)
If you go, and I recommend the adventure if you are an intrepid bead hunter, wear clothes you can get dirty, and take hand cleaner (your hands will get black). Save your manicure for the day after you go. Take your gold card, or your self-control pill. (you will probably never find that string of beads again). The man who showed me around told me that they usually recommend you come early in the day, as you could spend the whole day in there.
All the things I wanted: those nice red glass beads, the white-lined blue glass beadsthat big bag of (probably) brass ankhs, the Czech pressed glass sapphire colored flowers with a whole in the center (spacers! earrings!), that big bag of chain pieces, the strings of rose montes…. The funny thing is, I have never wanted glass before. I just got crazy for it in there. That much all around you, you start to think of new things you could do…
What bothered me a little is that, with the prices – not actually so cheap—things I might make might come out about the same price as my semi-precious stone pieces, and still be just costume jewelry. I think I would still stick with sterling in most cases, because I can’t wear most base metal, and people like me are the clientele I cater to).
Still, the excitement of pretty, shiny (or not so) vintage beads and Swarovski and Czech crystal will draw me back there.