Last weekend, I made a road trip to Chicago to visit my friend Ami, as well as do some shopping at the International Gem and Jewelry Show (Intergem for short). After a great (but cold!) night at Navy Pier, we woke on Sunday morning to a gorgeous day and set out to explore the goodies at the show!
Intergem is set up with two sections – Retail is for the general public, and there are booths with beads, stones, clothing, purses, and more. It’s also VERY crowded, noisy, and busy!
The Wholesale section is all about jewelry making – from strands upon strands of beads, to cabachons and faceted stones for setting…even booths with great settings to put those fabulous stones in! Lots of finished jewelry as well.
Ami and I had a great time shopping. I scored an unbelievable find of .59/gram for Bali silver, and picked up a nice stash. I use Bali for my class kits as well as accents in my Brag Bracelets and other items, and there were plenty of choices at the Silver Planet booth!
Additionally, I got a LOT of beads. From gorgeous new shades of glass (chocolate cherry and red velvet – ooh la la!) to dyed hot pink moonstone with an unbelievable flash, I was in heaven!
The funniest thing we saw (over and over again) were carved “turquoise” (I think they were actually dyed howlite) peace signs in pendant and large bead sizes.
Overall, the quality of stones and other items in the wholesale section was very good. You do have to examine every strand (just like you would at an LBS!) but for the most part, these are not low grade beads! Vendors may give you a discount, and shopping on the last day of the sale will garner additional savings. We shopped all day on Sunday and found several vendors offering 70% off wholesale prices!
I would highly recommend Intergem to any beader or jewelry maker – to access the wholesale area, you need to provide a tax ID and proper identification (bring a photo ID and business card!) and register prior to entry.
Plan to spend the day – we started at the beginning of the show (11 a.m.) and left shortly before closing at 5 p.m. Take breaks periodically – the bright lights and sparkling strands will give you a bit of eyestrain – but have a blast!