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Is Swarovski Going to Stop Making Crystal Beads? What are the Alternatives?


Many of you may already have heard a lot of chatter and rumor about the possibility Swarovski will soon stop making their iconic crystals. This will undoubtedly impact resellers and jewelry makers everywhere, and especially those who design tutorials and sell kits. 
 
Fire Mountain Gems, as a large distributor, has been in touch with Swarovksi. In their latest newsletter, they said, "We do know Swarovski is streamlining the global distribution of their components division. The good news is Swarovski plans to maintain a limited number of affiliate distributors resulting in much closer partnerships. What this means for all of us is that Swarovski will be discontinuing a large amount of their product offerings by the end of 2020. They have assured us we will be able to purchase and supply Swarovski crystals to you through September 2021."

Sam Wescott of Wescott Jewelry shared several mentions from other distributors in her blog post.

So what happened to make Swarovski lose its business sparkle?  

This family owned company, founded way back in 1895, has been in a tight corner for some years as it struggled to adapt to changing consumer tastes and global competition. The pandemic made things worse - 3,000 Swarovski boutiques in near empty malls.  Revenues have fallen by a third this year. Their main historic manufacturing plant is also floundering. The company is in the process of reorganizing, shedding some 6,000 jobs or 20% of their workforce so far.

According to Bloomberg, the new CEO Robert Buchbauer, himself a member of the dynasty, is trying to push through plans to make the company slimmer by shrinking low margin mass market products and shift focus to more profitable ones.  The turnaround plan is expected to take a few years. Not all the family are in agreement but Buchbauer is likely to prevail. He believes these steps are necessary for the long term survival of the company.  
“It’s very painful for everybody, but we have to take the steps that we should have taken years ago,” said Buchbauer, 54. In the future, Swarovski will focus on higher quality products with unique designs rather than trying to offer everything for everybody, he said. “Swarovski crystals on a 10-euro T-shirt don’t add to our profitability and hurt our brand image.”
So if all goes to plan, we are going to see a greatly reduced range of loose crystals and beads after next year or so and from far fewer distributors. What that limited range remains to be seen.  

Apart from that Swarovski name, we will not be out of our crystal staples.  Their competitors are sure to fill the void once Swarovski withdraws from the craft market. And offer lower price points.  

I can see 3 main sources of crystals as we go forward :

The Czech based Preciosa already produces a wide variety of great beads including these beautiful light amethyst AB bicones available from SussmansSupplyCo on Etsy.   


The Chinese manufacturers whose crystals are available from many vendors are also in the game.  They too produce good crystals which are difficult to tell apart from Swarovski crystals with the naked eye.  I compared them using the macro function of my iPhone. The crystals below are slightly different tones of blue but can you tell which is which?


The Swarvoski bicone is the one above left. 

I also took another photo with clear crystals. The Swarvoski is the one with the AB finish on the left. The Chinese crystals appear a little wider at the top and bottom but otherwise the faceting is similar.
 
So if you have favourite patterns you use again and again or if you are a tutorial designer, do check to make sure your patterns still work with substitutes or else they may need some adjustment.


At a normal viewing range, the Chinese crystals below are just as sparkly as the Swarvoski ones in my collection.

Chinese made crystals

The third source of crystals will likely be real Swarovski crystals hoarded by beadaholics everywhere! Yes, you!  I can see many putting up their Swarovskis for sale in the coming months!  I might well be one of those as I have some which are no longer of use to me. 

Is having Swarovski products important to you? Or are alternatives okay? Do you plan to stock up in the coming months? 

Please leave your comments below.

H/T to Aims of BigBlueBarnDesigns  

Photography 
I used  my iPhone 8+ for final product photography in natural light. I used  the Orangemonkie studio which comes equipped with LED lights - for artificial light photography in my windowless basement studio. The Foldio2 Plus is excellent . I use the Foldio3 because I need the room for tutorial photography. 

My online class Easy Guide to Smartphone Jewelry Photography is now available. Read more about it here.  











Before You Go:
Disclosure 

 This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
 ______________________________ 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM 

42 comments:

  1. In terms of crystals there are many equivalents and sometimes you cannot tell the difference if there are 6mm and below. But Swarovski pearls and larger stones are a class apart and I hope they don't stop making them. A better plan will be to close brick and motor stores and move even retail sales online with set minimum quantities.

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    1. I agree with you, Divya. I suspect they will ditch the small crystals like the bicones as there are already plenty of substitutes. Their pearls may be even in size but it makes better sense to choose real ones when the cost difference is not so great. Perhaps they will retain the larger designs where they excel. They are trying to stay in the luxury market so I guess they need to have some brick and mortar.

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    2. Do you have a brick and mortar store that sells crystals. We have some, but they sell highish-end jewelry and sculptures. I don't buy directly from them anyways, and get my from stores like Fire Mountain, since the craft stores around me don't really carry them anymore.

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    3. Do you have a brick and mortar store that sells crystals. We have some, but they sell highish-end jewelry and sculptures. I don't buy directly from them anyways, and get my from stores like Fire Mountain, since the craft stores around me don't really carry them anymore.

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    4. No I do not have a bricks and mortar store. There are many vendors on line which steill sell them. https://tidd.ly/2JpOAWU

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  2. I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

    Swarovski comes in a lot more colors than most of the Chinese brands. I feel like Preciosa is next in terms of color variety and I also do notice the cut is a little better for Preciosa than some other brands. However, they don't have any large stones currently on the market that I can tell (I have found some vintage ones). Matubo has some good rivolis in a nice variety of colors.

    I would imagine some of the Chinese brands are better than others, but a lot of times they don't come branded so it's hard to say. I have tried Thunder Polish but I am not quite as ready to rave about those as some out there.

    Potomac Beads has a nice line of their own crystal beads and stones, including some shape variety. Their colors are pretty vibrant but of course nowhere near the variety of Swarovski. They do release new offerings fairly often and maybe they will step this up in view of the opening in the market.

    I spend way too much money at Fire Mountain so I get their Platinum Partner pricing and I may have spent more than I am willing to admit stocking up on Swarovski basics and will probably buy more in the next few months. I notice they are selling out of a number of styles and have them on backorder.

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    1. I think the other manufacturers will be ramping up production to fill the void. So the situation will need watching as it will be changing rapidly. Maybe the increase demand in the next few months will make Swarovski think what they want to axe. They could even retain much of their product line but raise the prices considerably.

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    2. I have often thought they could just reduce numbers of products or stop having quite so many odd special edition items (radiolarian pendants, growing crystal pendants, many skulls, Virgin Mary pendants) and stick with the basics like bicones, rounds, pearls, flatback rhinestones, and some of the more popular fancy stones, as well as getting rid of some of the odder or less-popular colors and sizes like 5mm which I think isn't used often (at least in the patterns I have).

      On the other hand, raising prices would fit with the exclusive, high-end image they seem to want to promote.

      I have seen a lot of people outside of jewelry-making up in arms about this, as I poked around, like people who do some horse-related things, pageants, and figure skating.

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    3. I don't think they can keep on making things that don't sell or maintain such a huge selection. So I think they will have to rationalize no matter what.

      We don't use a lot of crystals compared to the non jewelry makers so I can understand how upset they are. The costume makers do need a ton of crystals!

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  3. Thank you for this report Pearl. It is very helpful. Some of my pieces have Swarovski crystal in the name. I do have a small stock of many but not sure how long it will last. That depends somewhat on recovering from low sales :-( May I, also say, I admire your pictures of the crystals. They can be hard to photograph accurately

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    1. Hang in there Bev. You are not the only one affected by low sales. The pandemic has much to do with that. Thanks for the compliments. I had to use a dark background but the Czech bead supplier photo was excellent as it was photographed on white which is much harder.

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  4. I recently read about Swarovski cutting back operations but the article wasn't as detailed as yours. I do not plan to stock up in the months ahead. I have many projects on my website that used Swarovski crystals. I chose the crystals for their brilliance. But there have been times when I couldn't get Swarovski for one reason or another and substituted Precoisa. I don't think the difference was perceptible in the finished project. Thanks for the article.

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    1. I agree - for most people, Preciosa or another substitute crystal maker will work just as well.

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  5. I'm trying to get my head around the CEO disparaging people for using their crystals on tshirts etc saying it makes Swarovski look bad? Well - good luck selling your crystals to only high end designers and the mega rich. To me that's a disaster in the making.

    I often think of your post showing their beautiful headquarters. I'm wondering if that will maybe become a museum eventually or simply disappear because the mega rich couldn't care less about their crystals.

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    1. It remains to be seen if they can shift from many small sales to fewer big enough large sales.

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    2. I was taken aback by his comment as well! What a rude and ungrateful statement.
      I do like their crystal beads and will miss the pearls but I'll be fine with Precosia and I'll just have to adjust my pearl involved production.

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    3. Swarovski plan for the future is a disaster. As a designer who has degrees in finance, accounting and economics, I can only shake head. Arrogance is the downfall of many a company or brand. The best successful brands have bread and butter products which keep their name in the front of the public. They are punishing those who invested or sold their brand because Swarovski changed article numbers, colors and designs so frequently. Of course, they would start loosing money. How many luxury brand items are they going to actually going to sell when all they had to do is to keep the basics which have made them money for years. Seriously? It's Business 101.

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    4. I am hoping that they will focus on their bestsellers in the end - bicones, pearls and rivolis are what I am thinking of.

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    5. I find it really disgusting that Swarovski would walk away from millions, if not billions in worldwide sales to DIY, custom artists, crafters, performers, beauty, etc. and say that they will only sell to "luxury brands". It reminds me of when Abercrombie made a statement that they wouldn't sell over a size 12 because it didn't fit their brand. Swarovski only wants to sell to people who fit their brand image and they are laying off more than half of their workforce in the process. Disgusting. Maybe they should have figured out how to manage their business better. Good luck protecting your brand with this despicable crushing of business, livlihoods and people's passions worldwide. They don't deserve our business.

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    6. Agree! Plus, I hate to support China.

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    7. Don't support China, Everyone says they hate supporting China but money talks BS walks. And as long as you want a bargain you will support China!

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    8. It's not just "wanting a bargain". In general, not just crystal buying, people need bargains because wages have not increased enough for ordinary people to earn a decent living.

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    9. Swarovski has not laid off over half of its workforce. Not at all. They are rebranding and bringing their focus to their higher profits. And unfortunately, it is not the DIY crystals. The company does not solely focus on beads or jewelry, their talents lie in many places across the globe, and you may not even realize.
      As far as the comment with “I have a degree in finance... this is a terrible business move,” yeah, I’m sure you do. But I’m positive that they have a task force with far advanced business credibility as well. So before we make assumptions of this change and their brand image, why don’t we see where it goes? Louis Vuitton did the same exact thing in 2018, and raised their profits 46% in one year. Let’s see what Swarovski’s plan is - maybe it will be surprising to us all.

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  6. I've been expecting this post :) Just like Divya, I'm more more concerned about the pearls. All we can do is wait and see how this strategy works.

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    1. There has been a lot of online chatter about this so it waw inevitable.

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  7. I do love Swarovski, but I've also found beautiful substitutes. I'm not overly concerned.

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  8. I’ve personally used Chinese substitutes many many times and although I hadn’t found much perceptible difference in shine and finish, one thing I DID find time and time again, was that using the Chinese ones would end up making my piece go all ‘wonky’ as the ends of the beads don’t seem to be as consistently evenly cut, so they’d get thrown out of whack for how they were supposed to sit, and no manner of pulling thread tight or otherwise could get them to straighten or line up again. I feel that preciosa would be the next best to use.

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    1. Good to know, Retro-grrl! Thanks for sharing your experiences! Got that everyone?

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  9. I was able to identify both your Swarovski crystals. It was easy. The cheaper crystal was not as clear. They were both a little foggy. Not a lot but the difference was obvious to me. I will miss the Swarovski crystals!! I think the quality is worth the price.

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    1. I agree with Mary Ann. This is devastating news for me. Their quality and Color can’t be rivalled. Value my work too much to even think of using Chinese production. Preciosa is too limiting.

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    2. This was also very clear to me. Of course, I've been doing some comparison the past couple of years specifically using Swarovski in some hairpieces and alternatives in others, so I'm used to looking at them next to each other up close and far away. My pieces with substitutes are very pretty, but the Swarovski is literally a cut above, the regularity of them up close and the flash of them from six and twelve feet away is clearly different. I have stocked up, especially on colors and finishes that don't exist in other brands now, but there's no way to stock up enough without being a millionaire, so I've only been able to get a stock of bicones and a few rivolis. If they still exist in the market in a month I will get rivoli drops, but man am I seeing a lot of 'sold out' options from sellers, and getting a lot of emails back on orders saying "um, that thing we said we had in stock... we counted wrong, it's gone."

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  10. I'm devastated by this in that I'm a Swarovski pearl junkie. They're in everything I design and make. The only thing I've found online that seems like a viable alternative is Preciosa Nacre Pearls. The problem there is that they aren't made in 3mm and I can't find anyone who sells them! Regular Czech pearls I've used in the past are garbage. The finish wears off. Swarovski pearls are in a league of their own.

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    1. They seem to have started discontinuing the less popular items. So perhaps they will keep on making their bestsellers like bicones, pearls and rivolis?

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  11. I think Preciosa might do well as we have a long tradition in beads and glass in Czech and I buy rondelles and bicones quite often, but I can't agree that China is good substitute as just from the picture the edges of the bicones are too fat and I can't find anywhere else such an amazing briolettes and teardrops. I have also some cheaper glass beads as well and they are quite fine. But it's a shame anyway they stop them...

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  12. I think this whole "preciosa is just as good, chinese is just as good" is people trying to make the best of it. There is no product on the market like Swarovski - they have a precise cut and consistency in color and shape that is unmatched. It confuses me, though, why Swarovski are going after the "luxury market" [i.e., mass-produced overpriced stuff] which is the precise product that isn't selling! Their "little" customers are the ones who have kept the Swarovski name out in front for so long - and they are also the ones who are still buying. Gotta wonder where they picked up this business model...

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    1. I agree with you that Swarovski is the best. I use their bicones in my jewelry designs and I especially love the ones with an AB2X finish. As you say, The Swarovski beads have a precise and consistent cut, color and shape. Preciosa is nice, but their bead sizes are not always consistent; and IMO, Preciosa's AB finish isn't as subtle or pretty as Swarovski's. I'm stocking up on those Swarovski special finishes and colors that I use most often, to the extent I can while I can. And then I will switch to Preciosa for the basic colors. Swarovski is losing a big chunk of their customer base.

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  13. It's actually been super distressing to me since hearing about Swarovski's decision to focus on other products and not beads. I tend to use the highest quality beads in my jewelry because saying made with "Swarovski Crystals" not only sells for more, but I feel that the piece will last longer too. I have to agree with the previous comment that there is nothing like Swarovski in the market that matches their cut and color. I am not a huge fan of Chinese beads because they are inconsistent.. and who wants then when they are trying to complete multiple pieces. The cut and finish are not there. Preciosa is ok... I find Czech beads to also be hit or miss on quality and consistency. I am a very small jewelry maker and have a very small stash of Swarovski left. I cannot afford to go out and hoard right now. So, I guess the small guys like me will suffer without being able to order Swarovski as needed going forward. I do understand the company statement that the cheapness of some of the beads does water down their brand. I also still want to say Swarovski is "premium" and not put hotfix gems on a $1 shirt. That was Swarovski's mistake in trying to spread out too far in their product range. I hardly have ever seen, let alone used the majority of their bead shapes and they are not needed in the market. The bicones, pearls, briolettes, chatons, rivolis are all very popular and should be kept in production. On that note, I am glad that I found Potomac Beads and their crystals. Their quality is good, but they just can't keep them in stock well. I guess the hope is that the market will now fill with other manufacturers that can keep us happy and still give good quality to our customers in our end products.

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    1. You are not alone. So many people are distressed with this news.

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  14. I have been making and selling my handmade jewelry and lanyards using mainly Swarovski pearls for over 10 years, so this is going to really make things difficult for me. I have numerous repeat customers who depend on my shops and being able to purchase my Swarovski pearl lanyards. So I don’t know what I’m gonna do! Yeah I guess I can use Preciosia pearls, but I’ll have to change every listing I have with Swarovski pearls which is at least 75% of my products in both of my Etsy shops!! Man this sux big time!! 😔😭😖

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    1. Yes, it really sucks. I cannot imagine what the costume designers, movie and theatre designers are going to do either. They use Swarovski crystals by the bucket load!

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    2. I'm OK with the Preciousa but they don't appear to have much of a color range, and no finishes like the vitrail, or volcano. I've never been impressed with the Chinese crystals--there's something strange about the finish--they look "oily". I'm hoping that Swarovski's Rivolis and drops continue to be available.

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  15. I'm gonna miss the 'shimmer' finish a lot.... and the color range. And the bigger things like the stars. I just bought myself 350 £s worth of swarovski stars as a goodbye present for myself. I've spend a lot of money for my bigger dresses over the years, and i feel very dissapointed that it's no longer going to be an option.

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