News & Announcements
New photographic technique
A few months ago I bought a new camera
for the business. Unlike the first three cameras I
owned, the new camera is not a point-and-shoot camera with a
small sensor. Rather, it is a "mirrorless" camera with
a large sensor. Working with a large-sensor camera has
been an eye-opener. The large size of the
sensor makes it somewhat harder to get my pictures in focus.
However, the large sensor doesn't require as much light to
take the photos, and the color reproduction is better.
For most of the time I've been in business,
I have photographed my beads in ambient daylight from a
window. For reasons which I won't go into, my new
camera doesn't do very well using ambient daylight (some pictures
come out looking soft or fuzzy), so I've switched
to using lamps with daylight-balanced bulbs in them. I
used lamps once before, but I used them in conjunction with
a cloth "light box" which was supposed to diffuse the lamp
light. But the box didn't work very well, and all the
beads ended up with two bright spots on them (reflections of
the lamps shining through the cloth). Recently,
however, I discovered that
if I used the lamps without the light box, the spots
on the beads look much smaller, meaning that less of the
beads are obscured by light reflections.
Discovering that two lamps is all I need to
take my photos has been a revelation. What had been a
difficult and finicky process in front of a window has now
become a simple matter of turning on the lamps and snapping
away. I can do it any time of the day (because I don't
have to wait for the sun to come out), and the pictures that
I am getting are the best that I have ever gotten. It
is so much easier now to take photos that I find myself
doing it more often
– and the
pictures look better than ever.
To give you an idea of the difference
between my new photographic technique (using lamps) and my
old one (using light from the window), here is a comparison
of two beads that are almost identical (the beads on
the right have more blue in them):
at the window
The photograph on the left doesn't show the
colors well, and it also has a large light reflection on it
from the window. The photograph on the right shows the
colors better, and each bead has just two, small light
reflections from the lamps, so that more of the bead shows.
Neither picture, in my opinion, is perfect, but the picture
on the right gives you a better idea of what the beads
actually look like
Finally, new beads!
In late August, I finally started to post
new beads, and I will continue to post new beads in September.
I have stopped indicating which beads are
new and which are older styles that are being restocked.
My shopping cart, as much as I love it, cannot automatically
indicate which styles are new, and doing it manually was too
much work. If you go to the home page of my shopping
cart and do not recognize the beads at the top, it means that
they are probably new.
Finally, a new camera!
For the last twelve years I have been using Canon point-and-shoot cameras with small sensors to take my
product photos. The problems with these camera were
legion: The color accuracy was not good; I always had to
have bright light to take photos; and the resolution (the number
of pixels captured) was not high enough to have sharp crops.
The poor color accuracy was particularly annoying. Aqua
beads would come out looking blue; blue and red beads would be
the wrong shade of blue or red; and yellow beads would look
greenish or wouldn't have the color saturation that the actual
So I looked for a camera that has good
color accuracy, and I found out something very interesting:
Camera manufacturers purposely make the colors inaccurate so
that pictures taken outside will look more attractive!
Among other things, they design cameras so that aqua-colored skies
will come out looking blue. All the major manufacturers
– Canon, Nikon, Sony – do this. However, I found a brand
– Samsung – where they do this to a lesser extent. I
found a Samsung camera with good color accuracy and a large
sensor which was at the end of its product cycle (meaning that
it was cheap), and I bought that camera (the model number is
NX1100). The camera has a couple bugs in it, but the
bugs only affect about one out of twenty photos, so I decided
to keep it. I have already started using it, and the
colors in my photos are much more accurate.
The low-light capability of this camera is
so good that I don't have to wait for sunny days to take my
pictures. In fact, I have discovered that I can take
perfectly good pictures by using a lamp with a
daylight-balanced bulb in it. With my old camera, one
bulb, no matter how bright, wasn't enough to take good
pictures. This means that I can take pictures at night,
which will be a huge convenience for me.
So will you notice a difference?
Not likely. The colors of the beads will be more
accurate, but you won't notice that because you don't know
what the colors should be. Also, I had become
very good at pulling good pictures out of my old Canon camera.
Overall, I think you'll find that the new pictures look
slightly better, but the difference won't appear huge to you.
Even so, I am delighted to have this new
camera. Unlike a Nikon camera that I purchased in the
spring (and then returned), it has no annoying glitches.
The way it operates is straight-forward and easy. I am
What's happening at
From 2002 to 2012, Purebeads was my sole
source of income. But, as I explained below, in late
2012 I started to receive Social Security benefits. In
mid-2012, my sales started to drop, even before the benefits
started. My sales have continued to drop since 2012, and
I believe that's because the bad economy has finally caught up
with my customers. Because my sales are down, I am
posting new beads only a few times a year; I no longer have
the money to buy new beads every month.
So what is going to happen to Purebeads?
The answer is "nothing". It now provides me with only
part of my income, but I would be truly poor if I had
only Social Security to live on. So I expect to keep the
business open for as long as I have the health to run it, and
I expect to have the health for at least another decade (I'll
be 64 this summer). The only unfortunate thing is that I
won't be posting as many new products. I will,
however, post enough new products to keep the number of
products in the store at 1200 or more. Eventually I may
be able to increase that.
New payment procedure
than a decade I have used a payment service called PayPal Pro.
In addition to paying 2.9% of every purchase to PayPal, plus a
30¢ transaction fee, I have also been
paying $30 a month for the Pro service. I recently
learned that PayPal has a similar service called PayPal
Advanced which has a monthly fee of only $5. However,
when I applied for the Advanced service, I was declined.
I have one unpaid debt on my credit record (long story), which
is apparently why they declined me. (Having been a
customer in good standing for 14 years, you would think that
they would approve my application based on that alone.
Frankly, I don't know why PayPal does credit checks at all,
since they do not extend credit with any of these services.)
After being declined, I decided that I really wanted to save
that $30 a month, so I downgraded to their Standard service.
If and when I clear up my credit, I'll upgrade to the Advanced
The Standard service allows a customer to
pay with either PayPal or a credit or a debit card.
However, the checkout process is confusing. You will
fill out your address on my site, and then you will be taken
to the PayPal site where you will see the screen below.
If you are paying with a card, you must click the link
indicated by the red arrow, and that will take you to a screen
where you can fill in your credit-card details.
Furthermore, you cannot use your own PayPal debit card to pay
(they expect you to use your PayPal account directly); and the
address-verification process is more aggressive with PayPal
Standard, so the address you type in must be absolutely
Postage amount will now be
visible on packages
a few years now, the postage amount has not been visible on my
packages. Hidden postage is called "stealth postage" in
the industry; my postage company, Endicia, offers it for an
extra $6 a month. I was hiding the postage amount
because I didn't want my customers to wonder if they were
charged too much or too little. My flat-rate shipping
charge is $3.00 to U.S. customers, but on a very small package
the postage can be as little as $1.69. What my customers
can't see are the extra shipping costs: package
insurance (50¢), cost of bubble mailer
(30¢), and a small charge for the postage service (30¢).
Since starting to receive Social Security benefits, I've
stopped promoting my business so much, and consequently my
sales have dropped. In order to save some money, I have
reverted to Endicia's cheaper service. Since the
postage will now be visible, please don't forget that the
postage amount is just part of the total shipping cost.
Shipping cost for large
international orders is coming down
ago I changed my shipping policy for international customers
so that they were paying the actual shipping cost (please see
the July, 2012 entry below for the reasons). Then, in
January, the U.S. Postal Service raised international postage
rates by a whopping 40%. My charge for shipping $200
worth of beads to an international customer went from $20 to
$27 overnight, and the cost of shipping $400 worth of beads
increased to more than $60. Well, I recently learned
about a little-known flat-rate box being offered by the postal
service which holds more merchandise than the original small
flat-rate box, and for the same amount of postage. I can
now ship up to $380 worth of beads (more if the beads are
mostly small, and less if the beads are mostly large) for $29.
That's quite an improvement over what I was charging before.
New shipping option:
the padded flat-rate envelope
service recently came out with a padded flat-rate envelope.
Instead of being made of paper with a bubble lining (as most
bubble mailers are), it is entirely plastic. The postage
amount is only 45 cents more than a small flat-rate box, but
it holds more beads. Since I am charging my U.S.
customers a flat $3 for shipping, I will start to use this new
envelope for orders which are too large to fit into the small
flat-rate box. Previously I had to use my own boxes, and
the postage was much higher. (In other words, this new
envelope will save me money, not you; but I still want you to
know about it.) I haven't used one of these new
envelopes yet, but I estimate that I can get up to $400 worth
of beads in one (a small flate-rate box will hold only about
$250 worth). The beads will have less protection than
they have in a box; but then, I am already mailing all of my
small orders in bubble mailers, so that's nothing new (beads
aren't very breakable). I will, of course, compensate
any customer who receives broken beads.
Where are the new beads?
posted many new beads since the beginning of the year.
This is mainly for personal reasons. I haven't been
feeling that well, and I've been dealing with various issues
– and doing my taxes took up a lot of time. Just
when things seemed to be settling down, I developed a
condition which made it painful to sit. None of these
problems will last forever, and I hope to have new beads on
the site sometime in April. Thank you for your patience.
International postal rates
have gone up
As many of
you may know, the U.S. Postal Service has been having
financial problems. This became very evident when, on
January 27th, they increased the cost of a small Priority
International flat-rate box from $16.95 to $23.95. That
is an increase of $7.00, an astonishing amount! That is
the largest increase I have ever seen for any class of
mail from one year to the next. I assume they made this
increase because the cost of flying mail to other countries is
prohibitive. If that's not the reason, I don't know what
I had been charging $19.00 to ship $100 worth of beads to
other countries, and $20.00 to ship $200 worth of beads to
other countries (the extra $2 and $3 covered insurance and
other shipping costs). If I continue to use flat-rate
boxes, I'll have to increase those charges to $26.00 and
$27.00, which is unacceptable. Fortunately, the cost of
First Class mail to other countries (as opposed to
Priority mail) remains reasonable (although those prices have
gone up too). However, if I send packages by First Class
mail, I won't be
able to use the Priority boxes supplied by the post office.
Consequently, I have started using bubble mailers for
shipments of $100 or less (which means that the beads won't be as well
protected). Eventually I will buy my own boxes.
The new rates will be $18.00 for $100 worth of beads
(approximately one pound) and $25.00 for $200 worth of beads
(approximately two pounds). The price for larger amounts
will also go up. I am sorry for the necessary increases.
Problems with pictures
As most of
my customers know, Purebeads is a home-based business.
In case you are curious, the largest room in the apartment is
dedicated to the business, along with part of the living room.
For years now I have photographed the beads in natural
daylight in front of windows. In Queens, New York and in
my first apartment in Rhode Island, I had double windows that
let in a lot of light. In my new home, I have only
single windows which let in less light. The time when
the light is best is in the mornings; but I am a late-sleeper,
and I don't get up until the sun has crossed over to the other
side of the house (where it is inconvenient to take
photographs). That leaves me with weak afternoon light
coming through a single window. In order to increase the
amount of light for the pictures, I have started using a lamp
with a daylight-balanced bulb in it. But the bulb makes
the pictures look more stark and harsh, although I can fix
that to a certain extent in my photo-editing program.
Also, round beads will have many more dots of light on them.
Until I find a solution to the problem, my pictures may not be
quite so stellar. (The solution will include a better
camera and, possibly, a better lamp. I may have to go
back to using the light tent that I used before, although I
don't think that will be necessary.)
applied for Social Security benefits;
What does that mean for the business?
I recently turned 62. I knew
that meant I was eligible for early Social Security retirement benefits. I had heard that if I started collecting at age 62, my benefit
rate would be lower, so I decided not to apply. However, sales have not been good
since the economic downturn started in 2008. Buying all
the beads I want has been difficult, and paying my rent every
month has been difficult. A friend in the neighborhood
convinced me that I should apply for benefits, so I did.
So what does it mean for the
business? Fortunately, it means mostly good things.
My monthly benefit check will cover my rent and my utilities,
so I won't have to worry about my security any more. The
money that I would've spent on rent will now be spent on other
things, including beads, so the number of products on my site
will increase. Also, I'll be able to buy a better camera
and make better pictures. I may also, at the age of 62,
finally learn how to drive. This is an exciting time for
The only bad thing is that I
probably won't hold as many sales. In almost all cases,
I held sales to raise my rent or pay off debts. The need
to raise money won't be so urgent now. I'll still hold
at least one sale a year, possibly two. However, you can
always get 10% off by buying $100 worth of beads, and 15% off
by buying $200 worth of beads.
It's also possible that I won't be
sending out so many mailings. My monthly mailings (in
which I announce new products) were always timed to my rental
payments, but now I don't need to do that. I may choose
to simply post the new beads when I have the time, and let my
customers find them whenever they decide to visit the site.
In the 1980's I was a jewelry
designer, just like my current customers are. I started
out designing in New York, and then I moved to Providence, RI
(where my mother lived), and I continued designing there.
(So that makes two times that I moved to be close to my
mother: in the early 1980's and in 2007. My mother
wasn't particularly thrilled to have me around on either
occasion.) However, when I decided to move to Arizona in
the mid-1980's, I put all my beads in two boxes and stored
them in my mother's attic. Well, I've just started going
through those boxes. What I found surprised me. I
have many more beads from that period than I thought I had,
and I also have many completed necklaces that I never sold (I
thought I sold them all, but I didn't).
I've decided that there is nothing
for me to do but to sell off that old stock. Some beads
I have in such a large quantity that I will post them on my
site like any other bead. Those beads that I have in
small quantities will be sold as Mystery beads. I will
create a new category to sell my finished jewelry.
My beads from the 1980's are much
more eclectic than the beads I am selling now. I used
semi-precious beads, glass beads, ceramic beads, and wood
beads. I also used seed beads, which I do not sell now.
The ceramic beads were particularly nice. They came in
bags with little slips of paper in them that said "Made in
Japan". (I thought the Japanese made only seed beads.)
Anyway, if you would like to get
some of these older beads, be sure to buy some lots of Mystery
fee for beads returned after 30 days
On July 30th I received beads back
from a customer, some of which were purchased 60 days prior,
some of which were purchased in 2011, and some of which were
purchased in 2010. (At the time, my return policy had a limit of
days.) Because of the work involved in processing
refunds (I must count all the beads that are returned), I have
decided that it is not unreasonable for me to charge a
restocking fee for returns over 30 days. Thus, for items
returned between 31 and 90 days after shipping, I reserve the
right to charge a restocking fee of 15%. For items
returned after 90 days, you will get only a scolding.
(And you'll also have to send me money to get the beads
shipped back to you.) There will never be a restocking
fee if you return beads within 30 days.
shipping calculator; international
Customers now pay actual shipping costs
There are extra expenses associated
with international orders, and because of that I have altered
my cart to charge international customers the actual cost of
shipping. At this time the shopping cart is not
programmed perfectly, so there is a possibility that some
customers will be over-charged. If that happens, a
refund will be issued.
The new shipping calculator has one
little quirk: You now must go part-way through the
checkout process to see what your shipping cost will be.
An order weighing 8 oz. will cost
$10 to ship ($6 for Canadian customers). An order
weighing one pound will cost $19 to ship ($15 for Canadian
customers). An order weighing two pounds will cost $20
to ship ($16 for Canadian customers). However, starting
at 3 pounds, the shipping cost really sky-rockets – that's
because a larger and much more expensive flat-rate box is
required. For example, a 5-pound box will cost $60 to
ship ($42 for Canadian customers), and a 12-pound box will
cost $80 to ship ($65 for Canadian customers). (A
12-pound order will contain about $1,000 worth of beads.)
It grieves me to charge my customers
so much, but the cost of international shipping has gone
through the roof. If I don't charge my international
customers the actual cost of shipping, I will have to pay
money out of my own pocket.
Shipping to U.S. customers will
remain at a flat $3.00.
payment problem fixed
In the last
several months there have been about five instances when I
received two payments for an order. What usually happens
is this: As the last step in the order process, the
customer clicks "Confirm" to place her order, and my site then
gets stuck on the "Please Wait" prompt. The customer
then clicks "Confirm" one more time, and I end up receiving
two payments. For the order-confirmation page to appear,
my site must hear back from the payment-processing site that
the payment went through. If it doesn't, then my site
remains stuck on "Please Wait". I have now installed a fix which will show the
order-confirmation page even if there is a
communication problem with the other site. In the vast
majority of cases, the payment will have gone through without a
hitch. You should receive an order-confirmation email
from my site. If you don't,
please contact me. (But before you do, check to make
sure that the order-confirmation email didn't go into your Spam
A customer complained to me
about the European date format that my shopping cart was using
(DD/MM/YY), and I told her that I couldn't change it because
the shopping cart publisher was in England. But then I
investigated the matter, and found that it was changeable.
The date format that you will see on the site and in your
orders is now the American format: MM/DD/YY or
moving, my darling cat Tillie came down sick with end-stage
renal disease and had to be put to sleep. This was a
sweet, dear, unassuming animal who didn't have a mean bone in
her body, and I feel totally alone now. She used to
sleep in the boxes of beads during good times. I am
Price-per-bead won't be
marked on baggies
For the last year
or two I was marking the price-per-bead on at least some
of the baggies of beads that I sent out. My baggie
labels say "___ cents per bead" at the bottom, and I
was filling in the amount when I could calculate it quickly
in my head. However, the amount that I filled in wasn't
usually accurate. It didn't factor in discounts or the
cost of shipping. For this reason, I've decided to leave
it blank. I am going to let my customers decide what the
beads cost them, and to fill in their own amount.
is an online store, my physical location doesn't really matter
to my customers. However, sometime during March I will
be closing the store while I move to another location (within
from my current location). The store won't actually be
closed; rather, I'll put up an announcement that orders can be
placed but won't be filled until the move is over.
The benefit of
moving just a short distance is that I can move in several
short steps. When I moved from NYC, I had to close up
for a month, and my business never completely recovered from
For quite a while
now I have been posting 25-30 new bead styles per month, but I
am going to have to cut back to 15-20 new styles per
month. Since the economy tanked in late 2008, sales have
been somewhat slow, and I don't always have the money to buy
so many new beads. In 2010 I received
an inheritance that I put towards beads, but that has run out.
Even my suppliers don't post so many new bead styles, so I feel justified in making this change.
15-20 new styles each month is 200 styles a year, which is
pretty good. Old styles which I restock will be in
additional to any new styles that I stock.
There is an
additional reason why I am cutting back. In order to
post 30 new styles each month, I have to buy small quantities
of many styles.
From now on I am going to buy larger quantities of each style so
that they won't run out as quickly. Thus, each bead
style will be available for a longer time. (That will be
good news when the style is really nice, though not all
of them are.)
rates have gone up
international customers, including Canadians, I have had to
raise my shipping rates. (Up until recently I was
charging a promotional rate to Canadians, but I cannot do that
any longer.) International orders cost me more money and
time than U.S. orders do. The credit-card fees are
higher, and the shipping insurance is higher. Also, it
takes me longer to pack the orders because a special label is
required that has a customs form on it which takes time to
fill out. In addition, all international packages over
13 oz. have to be brought dirctly to the post office, meaning
that I can't just drop them in a mailbox. For all these
reasons, I've decided that I have to charge the actual cost of
shipping to my international customers.
Canadians will be
charged a flat $12, and then I will refund the excess if the
actual cost of shipping is less by a dollar or more. To
other international customers, I will charge a flat $19, and
then I will refund the excess if the actual cost of shipping
is less by a dollar or more. For example, let's say that
you place a very small order and pay $19 for shipping, but it
costs me only $8 to ship your order, I will refund $8 to you.
But if you place a large order which costs $18.50 to ship,
there will be no refund. Canadian customers especially
are likely to get refunds if their orders are not too big.
If the cost of shipping exceeds $12 (for Canadians) or $19
(for other international customers), I will absorb the extra
Please note that
the amount of postage on the package does not represent the
entire shipping cost. To the postage amount I will add
50¢ if your order is shipped in a bubble mailer, plus $1 to $3
for private shipping insurance (depending on how big your
order is). Thus, if the postage on your package says
$8.50, the actual cost of shipping could be $10.00 or more.
(This entry was
updated with new information in 2012.)
may change slightly
In late May, my
old CRT monitor died, and I started using an LCD monitor.
LCD monitors, generally, are brighter than CRT monitors, and
as a result, I find myself making the pictures a little darker
than before. Also, to my eye, the pictures need less
sharpening than they did before, so I am sharpening them a
little less. Consequently, if you use a CRT monitor, the
new pictures may look a little darker and a little less crisp
than the old pictures look. However, the difference is
small, and you may not notice anything.
Switching to an
LCD monitor also showed me that many of the pictures that
looked great on my CRT monitor look washed-out on the new
monitor. If you have an LCD monitor and feel that my pictures look washed out, the reason is that they were
optimized for a CRT monitor.
reduced on 2mm x 4mm rondels
formulae have changed over the years, and as a consequence the
prices of the 2mm x 4mm rondels are coming down. They
were always a little too expensive. Right now, most of
them are priced at $3.00 per 100. By the end of
February, I will have reduced all of those to $2.80, and some
of them to $2.60. (Whether they are priced at $2.60 or
$2.80 depends on whether I had enough money to buy them in
bulk the last time I ordered them.) Some of the more
expensive colors, such as the metallic colors, will not be
is back to normal!
About 80% of the
beads from the old shopping cart have been transferred to the
new cart at
www.purebeads.com/catalogue/. The remaining old
stock will be transferred during February and March.
Also, in January I posted new beads for the first time in
several months. New beads will no longer appear on their
own "What's New" page. Rather, they will be posted on
the home page of the new cart (that is where you can find this
month's new beads).
Reviews are gone
My new shopping
cart had a review feature which allowed customers to post
reviews of individual products. However, in the many
months that the new cart has been up and running, not one
person posted a review. I finally concluded that beads
are not the kind of product that many people will want to
review. Thus, I have turned off the review feature
entirely. If you have comments about a particular bead
style that you want other people to see, let me know and I
will put your comments in the description field.
Wish lists not coming
I have decided
not to upgrade to the new version of the shopping cart (at
least, not yet), so I won't have the wish-list feature in my
shopping cart any time soon. Sorry.