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Washington Voices

Wonders of the World helps crafters make custom pieces

Thu., Jan. 16, 2014

Joanne Riepl, buyer for Wonders of the World Beads in the Flour Mill, stands near a wall of beads on Wednesday. (Jesse Tinsley)
Joanne Riepl, buyer for Wonders of the World Beads in the Flour Mill, stands near a wall of beads on Wednesday. (Jesse Tinsley)

For more than two decades, Wonders of the World has been helping people create jewelry and accessories.

“In the past, beading was a hobby that very few people were doing. Now, more people are interested and as that happened, the range of beads broadened,” said store owner Pamela Barclay.

Wonders of the World Bead Shop specializes in mineral beads and carries beads made of a range of materials.

Originally, beads were a part of the main Wonders of the World import shop.

“About 22 years ago, we had more merchandise than we could put out in shows. That was the birth of Wonders of the World. We found the space in the Flour Mill. It was risky to have a lease, (but) we were instantly successful,” Barclay said. The separate space for the bead shop came about when she expanded the store in 1996.

Customer interests vary. Some look for stones with a symbolic meaning, which might be relevant as a gift for someone fighting a disease; others find supplies to make bookmarks or paracord survival bracelets.

“I have a lot of customers who know their stones, but there are always those that want it because it’s pretty,” manager Joanne Riepl said.

The beads come from across the globe. Barclay described some beads in a glass case: “There is an apple green form of garnet, typically thought of as a dark red, from Pakistan; amethyst is almost exclusively from Brazil; ruby from India; malachite from Africa; abalone from the Philippines; tourmaline from the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan; citrine from Brazil; and labradorite from Madagascar.”

Barclay stopped at a blue topaz necklace to explain a little-known chemical process, “Blue topaz starts out white. It’s put in radiation and turns blue. No one will buy it white, they want blue. I’ve only had four examples of natural blue topaz in 20 years, which is white topaz that was heated in the earth.” Quartz crystal is also put through radiation to turn it black, which she says some customers prefer.

Tara Newberry recently browsed the shop for the first time.

“I haven’t been able to find earrings I like, so I want to make some. I’m getting pickier,” Newberry said.

The shop offers basic beading classes among others, such as an upcoming course called Gemstone Folklore. They also hold bead creation contests with prizes – two of which were recently won by men. Their customer base ranges from crafters following a specific pattern, to those with a desire for the most intricate and finest.

“People want something custom-made and one-of-a-kind,” Barclay said.

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