The first time I ever went to Prague, which was about ten years ago, I was ready to buy beads. And I looked everywhere for them, but all that was available was jewelry - there were no loose beads to buy anywhere in the city. Before I went home, I looked in the yellow pages and discovered that all the bead manufactures were located in a town about 100 kilometers from Prague.
The second time I went, several years later, I had a guide, and I asked her to arrange a visit to this town so that I could find beads. She made appointments at two manufactures and off we went for the day. Today this town is known to most beaders as THE source of Czech beads, but this was not the case when I went. Our first stop was a normal-looking house in the town which turned out to be the main office for a manufacturer of lampwork glass beads. The glassworkers, mostly women, worked at home - a cottage industry. We were allowed to select whatever we wanted from the stock on hand. (I was with a friend who was not a beader but whose sister-in-law was, and my friend kept saying to me, "do you think she'd like this bead? do you think she'd like that one?", to which I replied, "she'd love any and all of them"). That visit took care of all my available cash ...
Then we went to a factory that made pressed glass beads. There we were taken into the storerooms, handed plastic bags and scoops, and told to scoop whatever we were interested in right into the bags. At the end, the bags were weighed, and we paid by the kilo. This time, I had to make a detour to the bank for a cash withdrawal on my credit card (and it turned out that I had forgotten to sign my Visa card, which caused some difficulty at the bank ... ). When I got home, I had hours of sorting to do, because all the beads were mixed up in the bags, but I didn't care - I like putting things in order.
It was a truly marvelous experience! But by the third time I went to Prague, the Czechs were on to us, and loose beads were available in stores all over the city ... more expensive, less fun (not that that kept me from buying any but I didn't have to raid my credit card this time).
From top to bottom:
*Lampworked rectangles (blue, red, purple, amber) with color inserts, orange foil glass squares, bronze glass rondelles
*Clear glass pebbles with foil and amber inside, tortoiseshell glass cubes, little silver balls
*Pink/green and pink/orange square tubes, orange rectangles, green rounds, art class sections