One of the hippest corners in the so-called HIP district of Laguna Beach is a little shop with an ocean view and an unpretentious name: Beadline.
That's where Naomi Cantonwine has been selling beads — and everything else that goes with bead stringing — for 25 years. Cantonwine also serves as the local jeweler for the hipster set, stringing one-of-a-kind creations for surfer dudes and dudettes, as well as selling gorgeous ambers and intricate Chinese and Czech beads.
She'll whip up a unique neckpiece or earring set for you as soon as you can settle on a piece of décor. Of course, selecting from the thousands of items in the shop is not easy. And then you get to pick the chain or earring mounts too. So many choices, so little time.
The shop is hung with all manner of strung beads, and hundreds of little boxes — all named and numbered — hold smaller items and what are called in the beading trade "findings." Findings are the gizmos that attach the beads together.
Cantonwine, 76, seems to know every item in the shop.
And how many items are there, you ask?
Don't. She can't tell you.
There are ancient carnelian beads, kitschy modern beads, crystals, jade, scarabs, amber and some oddities like huge Bedoin seal rings that go for $4,000 each.
There are beautifully faceted semi-precious gems and fetching little glass hearts. There are 200-year-old African trade beads (they make cool men's necklaces), contemporary African beads made from cow's bone or other natural materials and intricate Chinese beads painted on the inside of a tiny orb.
Need the perfect charm for someone's bracelet, or your own? Beadline has an infinite variety. There are even alphabet beads if you need to spell it out for them.
Here's something I'd never heard of: cherry amber prayer beads, so luscious-looking they could have come right off the vine. I didn't look at the price tag.
You can spend as little as $2.50 or — let's just say the sky is the limit.
It's not going out on a limb to say that Beadline is one of the largest stores devoted to all things beads in Southern California. Cantonwine says she has designers who make the trek from as far away as Santa Barbara to get their hands on her unique items. One woman recently captured a rare prize: a $3,000 coral strand.
"People may not realize it, but we are a destination store," Cantonwine said.
She also does the intricate and painstaking work of pearl knotting.
She started in the bead business after one of her twin daughters started making glass beads. She then found she had an affinity — well, maybe more like a mania — for beading.
"I'm happiest in the importers in New York City," she admitted.
That daughter now has a studio in Colorado, but Cantonwine is still at her shop, seven days a week, greeting customers who saunter in either not knowing quite what they're looking for or intent on buying just that singular item that only Beadline carries.
"It's an endlessly fascinating business," Cantonwine said. "I've seen three generations of families selling and exporting beads from China, Manila, the Czech Republic. The African traders used to come in with their beads outstretched on their arms and they'd lay them out on the floor."
To celebrate her 25 years in the business of beading, Cantonwine is offering a small gift for anyone who makes a purchase of more than $25 through February.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 302-1469 or email@example.com.
Where: 995 S. Coast Hwy.
Call: (949) 494-3262