Blue Buddha Boutique – a Chain-Mailler’s Delight

Here's a screen shot I took of their website

Here’s a screen shot I took of their website:

Recently, I bought a book devoted to making chain-maille jewellery. I’ve dabbled before, and yearned to try some fancy patterns, but that book pushed me over the edge to actually exploring the technique. I’ll tell you all about it later, but there’s one problem with being a newbie to chain-maille. You don’t have the thousands of jump rings any of the projects need, nor are the ones you have of the right size or gauge! Luckily, the author of the book, Rebeca Mojica, realised this general problem and went and founded a store that catered to chain-maillers – the Blue Buddha Boutique. From what I understand, they started online, and then moved to a store in 2007 – in Chicago.

B3, as they call themselves, is an amazing store. They have detailed descriptions, recommendations for beginners, and all sorts of tips and tricks, and tutorials.  They also have a very fun and interactive blog that I’ve recently started following. Every thing you read on their website and their blog just makes you feel at ease and comfortable.

The best part of the store, for me, is how patiently they explain the ins and outs of chain-maille to you. Whether you’re an expert or a novice, you’re sure to find something useful. The only complication with the jump rings is figuring out their codes. Each gauge and size and material has a different code, but they do have guidelines that explain it. It’s just time consuming – like the actual process of creating chain-maille!

They ship very quickly, and include a little personal note and a tiny bonus in your order. This definitely makes for a very, very satisfied customer, who is definitely going to order more jump rings soon!

Not that I feel I’m going to develop any sort of great proficiency at chain-maille, but just so you see what can be done, I’ll leave you with this piece that left me breathless. It’s called Poseidon’s Embrace, and Rebeca Mojica made it out of 14,500 very tiny jump rings, and it won third place in the Finished Jewelry category of the International Bead Dreams 2009 competition, apparently the very first time a chain-maille piece made it into the finals!

Rebeca Mojica Poseidon's Embrace

Tell me you don’t think that looks like fabric! I am in absolute awe.

Look at how perfectly stunning chain-maille can be, and go order some jump rings today!


 [All opinions expressed are the author’s own. Poseidon’s Embrace image courtesy]

Bead Hunting in San Diego


Like we mentioned earlier, we’re always on the lookout for new beads. We’re like Gollum, perpetually looking for preciouses! So every holiday we take, no matter where we are, we generally manage to work at least one scavenger hunt for beads into our schedule. Our folks have resigned themselves to stopping randomly by the road-side or outside small shadowed shops while we run critical eyes over the merchandise.

Once, when I was visiting V in San Diego, he had to run in to work briefly while we were on the way out somewhere. So I tagged along, and sat in their oh-so-posh cafeteria. Wandering about idly, I saw a large rack of brochures, and went over to get a closer look. Tucked away amongst brochures for the Zoo and Sea World and various restaurants was a little flyer for some place called South Sun Products. Given the profusion of other advertorials on that rack, I insist it was destiny that led me to noticing the one little brochure for beads!

South Sun, according to their website, initially opened a store to move the products they’d collected over 20 years of manufacturing beads and other jewellery components. I have to say, the store is a huge hit – always packed, and always well-stocked. The first time I went there, I was lucky, because there was a huge sale on German Silver, and I went totally overboard. I barely even looked at the beads because I was so in love with the findings!

South Sun used to be on Aero Drive in San Diego, but they’ve recently moved to Ruffin Road, just around the corner from where they used to be. I’ve only visited their old store, but I hear the new one is as good, if not better. It was enormous, with a long hall full of racks and racks of semi-precious stones. I bought my first aventurine and tourmaline from here. They have beautiful briolettes of dyed jade, and the pearls! Don’t get me started on the pearls! I wish I had pictures to share with you, but believe me, no picture can actually convey the Ali-Baba-Cave-of-Treasures-feel this place has!

South Sun is amazing – the sheer amount of stuff that they have alone makes this place a winner. But beyond that, the quality of their stuff can’t be beat. Plus, the people are very friendly and helpful. They’ve patiently dug things out of their cavernous stores for me!

The worst thing about the store? Well, if you’re new to beads and jewellery, it might be totally overwhelming. There’s so much to choose from, it might make it very hard to choose. And you need patience. And a lot of time (not to mention money) to do full justice to the place. V has been exceptionally good about taking me there and waiting for me. He sometimes looks around and finds things for me too! But recently, he did mention dropping me off there and coming back for me hours later! I guess you can push even the most patient of guys to his limits!

I’ve made tons of pieces with the stones and gems I’ve got from here. My trusty bead spinner was picked up at a steal from South Sun, too. Here are a few of my favourite pieces, all made thanks to South Sun!

South Sun composite

So, everyone visiting San Diego, there’s more hidden away there than the ‘big attractions’! Go ahead, browse through some random brochures. You never know what you might find!


(Image of South Sun Beads taken from their website. All jewellery pictured here was made by me.)

Put your money where the beads are!

So far, we’ve talked a little about us, our fondness for strange colour combinations, and K’s special love for seed beads. But we’ve not touched upon possibly the most important thing of all – sourcing your beads! I’ve been collecting beads for years now, and it’s one of my biggest thrills to travel to a new city and find hidden gems in unlooked-for places. Till date, some of my favourite beads were found in a market stall in Singapore, a roadside vendor in Pondicherry and at a flea market in Rome.

K already mentioned that I’d lived for a while in Zurich. Living in Zurich, on a PhD student’s salary, is actually quite doable, provided you don’t have expensive vices. As for me, I managed just fine until I discovered a little store called House of Beads, and after that, I was sunk! This was just after the Rome trip, and a birthday, when my friends gleefully fed the flames of my beading habit with a beautiful book on beaded necklaces. What’s a girl to do, when confronted with so much colour, dancing just out of reach? Search for bead stores in the vicinity, that’s what!

House of Beads

House of Beads is on a little footpath, off the main road. For those who really want to know exactly how to get there, you take a tram (6,7, 10 or 15) and get off at a stop called Haldenegg. The Zurich public transport website will be able to guide you far better than I can! The trick is really in what you do after you get off the tram. You need to look for a little set of steps leading down to the main road. This road is called Weinbergfussweg. If you’re walking down the steps, you can’t miss it on your left. If you’re not suffering from colour-blindess, the displays will dazzle you.

Once you push the door open, there’s a happy little chime that immediately makes you feel welcome. The staff are friendly and helpful, and I’ve spent hours in this store, easily! There are also a few tables, and some tools, so you can choose your beads, make your piece, and leave the store wearing it! You can also ask the staff to make your piece for you, for a fee. My German was not very good, and though the staff’s English was only a bit better, we managed to communicate just fine. I ran into the proprietress on my last day in Zurich, as I was waiting for the tram to the airport, and we bade each other a sad farewell. I love the way common interests draw otherwise completely different people together!

Philosophy aside, I’d like to show you some pictures of the store. Just look at them, and tell me you don’t feel like wandering around for a nice long while!

House of Beads

 House of Beads

The best thing about the store? I can’t pick just one. I’d have to say the sheer variety, the extremely easy-to-follow organisation scheme and the wonderful people. And more than the beads, the fascinating array of connectors, and charms and pendants is beyond imagination. In my opinion, more than just beads, it’s these little things that really make a piece of handmade jewellery pop. The stuff in this store will add oodles of pizzazz to anything!

The worst thing about the store? How quickly your monthly salary flies through your fingers! Seriously, unless you plan to sell your pieces, this store (and possibly any store in Zurich!) might be too expensive for a casual hobbyist. Although, in all honesty, that didn’t deter me at all!

I made a lot of pieces with beads and findings from this store, and I loved every single one! I’ve not yet found another store that gives me this kind of range, both in terms of colour and material.

Of all the pieces I made, though, only one took about a month of evenings, and ate up all my “fun” money for twice that time! This was a 1.5m lariat made with a twist-stitch, and it is my pride and joy! Maybe I’ll tell you all about it later, but for now, take a look at the piece, and if you’re ever in Zurich, do go and bask in the awesomeness that is House of Beads!


(All pictures of the store are from their website: All jewellery pictured here was made by me.)