San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Drawing a Bead on Jewelry Making

“Making jewelry, in addition to being a small business, serves as therapy because it is very absorbing,” says Virginia Castro, owner of the aptly named Bead Shop.

After mounting the first jewelry supply store two years ago in the eastern suburb of San Pedro, Castro opened a second Bead Shop in December on the west side, in San Rafael de Escazú, filling the second-floor locale with an eyeful of colors and textures.

The walls are lined with strings of semiprecious stones, including quartz, jade, onyx, amethyst and turquoise. The shop also supplies natural bead treasures from land, river and sea, including wood, shell, coral and freshwater pearl.

A jewelry designer for seven years, Castro teaches jewelry classes in English and Spanish to anyone over 4 years old. She also offers beading birthday parties where parents can select a beading kit for each partygoer to make his or her own pieces.

Introductory classes teach the basics of closing a necklace with wire, making earrings and learning to work with elastic and leather. Eventually students learn about color and stone combinations and how to develop their own creativity. Castro encourages her students to create jewelry for personal use and for sale to the public, and gives them the opportunity to exhibit their collections at either Bead Shop location.

A recent exhibitor was Dora Lizano, who has taken classes from Castro since October. “I am an artist of soul, life and heart,” says Lizano, who is also a bronze, wood and stone sculptor and the owner of San Rafael-based dance studio Cascanueces.

Lizano’s first jewelry collection was an eclectic assortment of many materials and colors.

“We try to mix everything to give a modern feel,” Castro says.

Lizano incorporated elements including coral, pearl, shell, horn, bone, wood, seed and Argentine leather to create a dazzling array of designs. Pieces ranged from $30 for a simple necklace to $352 for a linked silver necklace, earring and bracelet set.

Each original piece had a unique design evoking a range of moods, from a playful, multicolor, handwoven cloth bag with glass bead accents to a sophisticated, earthy necklace  composed of loops of bone, wood andhorn beads. Lizano made imaginative use of the tagua seed, known as “vegetable marble,” which can be carved and dyed to create a variety of effects.

The Bead Shop sells purses, belts, bracelets, necklaces and earrings, as well as hundreds of beads, tools, strings, leather, clasps and accessories for jewelry making. It offers a selection of beads from all over the world, including Europe, China, Brazil,Mexico and Chile, and custom-made silver by a Mexican artisan. Castro guarantees her products and travels to the source country to personally select each material.

Items range in price from about $0.02 for “seed” beads to $34 for finer stones. The shop also repairs, cleans and restrings old pieces and creates custom pieces. Individual or group classes cost ¢5,000 ($10) an hour, plus the cost of supplies.

The San Pedro store (2224-5563), 150 meters south of Banco Popular, is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Escazú location (2289-9365), on the second floor of Plaza del Valle, behind Pops, is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, e-mail


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