Francesca Watson Designs

Resources 101 – All Things Metal

I get a lot of requests from my students for information about the best sources for purchasing metals and studio supplies, and usually I just toss out a few of the sites I frequent. But I recently promised a class that I would put something together for them that was a little more comprehensive, and it seemed like a good thing to share here, so here is the first installment of some of my favorite online resources.

For metals, I have a few “go to” site:

Rio Grande –

Rio is the grand-daddy of jewelry supply, and if they don’t have it you probably don’t need it. It is also the Nordstrom’s of jewelry supply, meaning everything is priced for high end consumption. I generally buy silver and wire from Rio when I have a short fuse order to fill, because they’re very good about getting things out quickly. I will say that – disappointingly – I’m hearing more and more from jewelry friends that their customer service has gone down some since they were purchased by Berkshire Hathaway. I’ve only had one recent glitch that was a serious problem for me, and Rio was very good about fixing it.

Metalliferous –

I buy all of my copper stampings from them for enameling, and a lot of my copper and brass sheet. Terrific pricing, superb customer service, and a good selection. If you need copper, this is the place.

Thunderbird Supply –

I love Thunderbird and I buy my sheet and wire from them whenever possible. They have regular sales, where you get their best quantity pricing on any amount of metal you buy – and that can really add up if you can plan far enough in advance to take advantage of the deals. As a bonus, they have hands down the best and most proactive customer service out there. If your order is more than what you approved when you checked out on line, you get a phone call from them before they charge your card. Love it.

Monsterslayer –

Located in Albuquerque, it’s pretty obvious which monster they’re looking to slay, and I used to buy from them all the time – good pricing and helpful staff. However…. in this day and age of internet commerce, their website makes me crazy. It’s hard to find things, it’s ugly to look at, the photos don’t resize, and sometimes the way things are grouped together seems a little counter-intuitive to me. I order from them when I can and when I know exactly what I need, because I genuinely believe in supporting the littler guys, but as good as their pricing is they are often not my first choice.

Otto Frei –

If Rio is Nordstrom’s, Otto Frei is Lord & Taylor. Top notch stuff, but priced accordingly. They also have some good sales so if there’s a big-ticket item you’re saving for, it might be worth it to stalk their site. (When I bought my flex shaft, I waited for one of their sales and bought from them.) One major drawback of dealing with them, though, is their shipping policy. Any shipment over a certain value MUST be signed for in person, no exceptions – and they don’t make that clear on their site. This can be a real pain – I once paid for two day shipping but because I couldn’t be at the house when the delivery arrived and couldn’t get to the shipping center during their open hours to pick up the item, I had to pitch a fit and arrange for a special evening delivery. Two day shipping became five, which was very annoying. On the other hand, when we had a last minute supply issue for our retreat in March, I called their customer service in a panic and they jumped through hoops to get us what we needed. So: watch the pricing, appreciate the excellent customer service, and be sure you’re thinking through your shipping needs.

I’ll do more of these over the next few weeks, and let you know where I get my studio supplies and tools. If there are things you’d especially like to know about, let me know – I’ll answer if I can!

4 replies
  1. Katie
    Katie says:

    I just found your website, and I LOVE it!
    Thank you for the resource list.
    Your writing style makes your blogs both informative and enjoyable to read. I would love to take a class with you some day. I’m from outside Buffalo, NY and would thoroughly enjoy the hands on opportunity. Let me know if you ever return to NY as a guest educator.


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