Q: I want to tell everyone how wonderful 'Fire Mountain' was to me last week. I'm leaving town tomorrow to housesit, and I said to the order taking person: "Perhaps you can wait a week and send it then, so I'll be home to take delivery." She said she thought she could do better than that!

A: Yeah, I've only had good experiences with them with at least a dozen orders over the past three years. I was pretty disappointed when they stopped their liberal assortability on price breaks for gem strands, and all that, and even though you can get lower prices on much of what they carry elsewhere, when I want a range of stuff, it's easier, and (all things considered) cheaper to get it from them. Last week I ordered two 50g packs of 'Delicas', some 'Gudebrod' silk thread, freshwater pearls, and beading needles, most of which I could probably get somewhat cheaper, but I'd have had to order from three or four different places. I got it all from them shipped 'Priority Mail'. I got it in three days for only $4.74 S&H. I agree, 'Fire Mountain' HAS been awesome, so imagine my surprise when I took a good look at their new 1998-1999 catalog. Virtually every price I checked has increased - be especially careful when figuring your per- piece price as they've changed from gross packaging (144 pieces) to 100 piece packaging for many staple items. A small example: 4mm gold plated brass heishe were $2.92 for a package of 144 pieces, or .0203 each. The new price is $2.26 for a package of 100, or .0226 each. Not a big increase right? Except, when you multiply the new price by the old 144 piece package (= $3.25) - an increase of $.33 for the same amount of beads. That's a 11% price increase, and I buy small quantities of 'Swarovski' crystal 10mm hearts - the prices for them have gone from $.66 for a pair to $1.14 a pair in the 10+ quantity per color range (now, I understand that 'Swarovski' prices are to go up at the end of this year, but almost DOUBLED?!) Even their 'Delica' prices for the 50 gram packages INCREASED from my last order in August - from $7.76 to $8.54 in the 'Code A' beads, and from $13.86 to $15.25 in the 'Code E'. Many suppliers, including 'General Bead' in San Francisco, are LOWERING their 'Delica' pricing, because of the economic problems in Japan, and their new product numbers for 'Delicas' no longer use the 'Miyuki' numbers, so we can't cross reference. I did raise a stink about that "boo-boo" with an E-mail, and received a very nice reply that they are working on a cross reference list which was to be mailed out this week, but to whom they didn't specify. I'll still use them for many, many items - but I'm afraid the days of the really, really good prices at 'Fire Mountain' are gone, gone, gone!