Bead Hunting at Yone Beads San Francisco

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I’m starting this post from a hotel room in San Francisco.  We are winding down a week in Carmel, Monterey, San Francisco and Marin.  I love, love, love this part of the country.  I spent some of the most fun years of my life –  to date –  in San Francisco

I moved to San Francisco all by myself, sight unseen,  from Wisconsin right after graduate school.  I was 25 years old.  I did not know a soul.   I had an internship with a small consulting company, a few suitcases, a car and lots of enthusiasm to explore.  I thought I would just stay for the internship, but the diversity, energy, incredible people, food and beauty blew me away.  I ended up living in San Francisco for about 3 1/2 years and so much happened in that time.  I met my husband, got married, got a great job, explored and did amazing things in this beautiful, diverse and exciting part of the country.

My husband’s work transferred us to Northern Virginia 13 years ago and as the saying goes, I left my heart in San Francisco.  We love where we live now and the life we have made in VA, but there is just nothing like the Bay Area.  Our  jobs and my husband’s family, have given us reason to travel back countless times in the last 13 years, but this is the first time we’ve spent so much time in San Francisco playing tourist in “our city.”



The Beads of San Francisco 

For all my jewelry making, beady, artsy, craftsy friends of mine, I know you want to know about the beads.

One would think (I did anyway)  that San Francisco would be full of bead stores.  This is not the case.  I guess rent is just too expensive and a bead store is a difficult brick and mortar business to run in a very high rent city. There are only a couple of bead stores and only one worth visiting.  When I lived in San Francisco I hadn’t discovered my love of beads and jewelry making, so this was my first time to this unusual bead store.  Yone has been in business for over 40 years and is just bursting with beads – but you need time and patience to sift through them all.


Yone is located in the bottom of a Victorian home in the North Beach neighborhood known for it’s great Italian food.  My husband, kids, niece and nephew from New Zealand sat in a restaurant across the street and enjoyed pizzas while I spent almost an hour and a half playing with the beads.

Yone was owned by a former fashion designer of the same name who had a passion for beads.   His business partner Herman Baker still owns the store and works there after 40 years.  I believe he is around 88 years old.  He has an interesting assortment of beads collected from all over the world.  Herman does not buy beads anymore unless a customer needs something specific.  He told me he has enough to last forever!  That looks to be true.


Beads hang from the ceiling, are in boxes all over the floor and the glass cases are full of expensive and rare beads.   When my husband came to check on me after an hour or so he was surprised I was not climbing the walls to get at all the little numbered boxes!

Definitely overwhelming – if you need to find something.   But it was fun talking to Herman about his beads.  He knows the price and origin of every single bead in the store without looking it up.   When you find a sample bead you want to see, he gets the number off the tag and goes to the wall to get the corresponding box so you can choose what you like.  Not efficient, totally different than anything I have seen in a bead store before – but  it was fun.

I was searching for something for a special project I am working on.  I don’t think I found what I needed for the project – but of course I  managed to find some treasures to take home.  Unique beads from India and Ethiopia I had not seen before.  Some old Thai silver buttons – which I love.

Yone is only open a few days a week for a few hours a day and they don’t have an online store.  I am glad I was in town at the right time.  If you ever are in the San Francisco area on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday between the hours of 1-6pm, it is worth a trip to Yone Beads to see what treasures you can find.


Here is a little sample of some of he beads I brought home.




If you are ever planning a trip to the Bay Area and want info. on great places to eat, beads, crafts, fabric stores, shopping, hotels, highlights of the city, etc.  Places the locals go for the best of….  Contact me.  If I can’t answer a question then I live with someone who can!


Enjoy the rest of your week.


  1. Thanks so much for this post. Living in Southern Calif., we love trips up to SF. Never heard of Yone and we haunt North Beach frequently. I’ll definitely be going there the next trip! Love the goodies you purchased there.

  2. Miss Tracy! I almost leapt out of my seat when I saw the name Yone. In September 2008 my parents took my husband and I on a once in a lifetime trip to San Francisco to celebrate our 40th birthdays that summer. It was marvelous. The wine country is special and being in Carmel-by-the-Sea is magical, but the real jewel in our trip was San Francisco without a doubt. When my dad asked me what I wanted to be sure not to miss when we were there I told him I had to go to Yone. I had looked it up online and found it quite by chance and I could tell from what I was seeing that this was going to be special. I think I shocked him because I suspect he thought I was going to say the cable cars, or the bridge or Alcatraz or Chinatown. Yes, we saw most of those as well, but Yone was the place. My husband patiently went with me while my parents sat in the park for an hour and it was so delightful. Mr. B is so sweet. And I am amazed that he knows all the things about each piece and where it is in the store. In fact, I have barely used 1/10th the things I bought because they are so precious to me. Some were the last ones he had on the sample tag and I just knew I had to have them! Thank you for sharing the pictures. I don’t have any from that time and it looks like it has not changed. I would go back in a heartbeat to San Fran and head straight to Yone! Enjoy the day! Erin

  3. Oh – it looks like you had a wonderful time! What lovely beads, too. And your experience at Yone seems like it will be one to remember for a lifetime,…love those kinds of days!!

  4. That looks like a fascinating bead store, I’ll definitely add it to my list for next time I visit San Francisco!
    I too lived in the Bay Area — in my case in Berkeley and Oakland — in fact it sounds like we were there at the same time (I was there from 90-2001, most of my 20s and early 30s, met my also-Australian husband there too and many lifelong friends). It’s such a fantastic city, wish I could visit more often…

  5. I live in the East Bay and have never been to Yone. I wil definitely check it out next time we are in the city.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing how wonderful the bay area is. I live in the east bay right now but lived in the City (SF of course) for 10 years before moving to the burbs. Haven’t been able to make it to Yone yet, but I may have to make a special trip there sounds wonderful. Glad you had a great time in the area, I’ve been here for over 20 years now and can’t imagine myself anywhere else!

  7. Simply amazing and Herman is so cute! Thanks so much for sharing the story of this very special bead shop. I can’t wait to see what you make out of your new treasures! Glad you had fun, hugs,

  8. Funny how your trip to CA has brought back memories for many of us. I moved to CA when I was 25 as well (and married less than a week!)…but it was my 3rd time to live there in my life. I wasn’t making jewlery at the time either or I would have loved to have visited this elusive store, Yone. What a treasure trove! I’m sure an hour and a half was hardly enough time to take it all in. Thanks for sharing the pictures – the one of you in the bead store is great! Who took that one?

  9. I commented before on your post – before you left for San Fran – that one of my favorite vacations was to that glorious City! Next time I go back – and I WILL go back! – I must schedule my trip around the days his shop is open! Sound like you made a another great memory on this trip (not just the bead store, of course)! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great reading about Yone and his store, what a treasure (both!) thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  11. Anther fun (and overwhelming) bead store is General Beads on the SOMA district. I bought a treasure trove of antique buttons there that I use as clasps. But, you’re right, there’s not much in the way of bead stores in San Francisco.

  12. Just found this post, but thank you so much. I lived at the top of Union St. In the 60’s and like all the other Hippies, I was making jewelry and selling it on the street or at fairs. Since Yone was on my way home, I stopped there several times a week and bought whatever I could afford. Even then, there weren’t a lot of bead stores in SF, but Yone had the best specialty beads, regardless. I believe the man who owned it was the original Yone, and I still remember what he looked like. It was and is a narrow little space and it was always packed with people. To anyone who wants a real taste of old SF, check this out. There’s nothing else like it in the West Coast.

    • That’s really cool Karen. Thanks for sharing!


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