Bead Education

Chevron Beads
Kiffa Beads
Majapahit Beads
Millefiore Beads
Peking Glass
Pyu Beads
Thai/Khmer Beads
Tradewind Beads
“Fancy Beads
Beads, Beads, Beads ……………………..Hold a bead in your hand and feel its texture, gaze at a bead and see its beautiful colors and delicate patterns.

What’s so great about beads is that they are made from simple materials that have been around for centuries – clay, glass, metal, and stone.

The practice of treasuring and wearing beads began long, long ago. In ancient Egypt practically everyone wore beads on their clothes as well as jewelry. People wore beads not only for decoration, but because they believed that the beads had special powers to heal and protect them.
Beads often end up far from the places where they were made. In the past, a traveler often gave beads to his host as a gift. The host might keep the beads or give them to someone else. That’s how beads spread from one region to another. If beads could talk, what stories they could tell!
Beads were also used in place of money. Imagine a beadmaker in India or Venice, hundreds or even thousands of years ago, who earned his living by making beautiful glass beads in colors of brick red, corn yellow, and sea green. People in territories as far away as China and Africa fell in love with these beads and traded very special goods such as gold or pottery to get them. The Venetian whiteheart has been found in Africa, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. As you can see, beads really got around.

Chevron Beads:  Venetian, 1500’s to 1900’s. One of the most famous trading beads, especially to Africa. Made using a glass mold with successive layers of glass which are ground to reveal the underlying patterns. The 7 layered chevrons are believed to date to the 1500’s.
Kiffa Beads: Produced by women in the Saharan country of Mauritania near the town of Kiffa, they are one of the few beads used in Africa which are produced there, and are unique in that they are made by women. The painstaking process involves applying powdered glass over a bead core to make the beautiful patterns and then “firing” the bead in a used tin can. One woman can make only 2-4 beads in a day.
Majapahit Beads: Produced in Kingdoms of Eastern and Central Java from 900 AD and before. They show the influence of Roman and Middle Eastern beads from before the time of Islam (Pre 700AD). The techniques include application of a cane of glass in a mosaic pattern similar to the later Venetian Millefiore beads. The “feathered” pattern on some beads is produced by “trailing” through applied glass stripes while the glass is hot. Bird beads are one to the most famous of the beads found during this time period.
Millefiore Trade Beads: Made in Venice, 1800’s to early 1900’s. Technique involves using slices of glass canes to create a mosaic pattern. The most widely traded bead to Africa. Patterns trace their history back to the earlier Roman, Middle Eastern and Asian beads.
Peking Glass:  Glass beads made for use in Court costumes during the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911) and for trade to minorities, such as the hilltribes on the Chinese borders, and to the Americas. They range from simple single color turquoise “Padre” beads traded to the American Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska to elaborately formed beads using a millefiore technique to insert a “starburst” design.
Pyu Beads:  Beads found in the Pyu trading kingdom which flourished in current Burma approximately 500 AD. Beads include a combination of etched agate, etched carnelian and glass beads from as far West as Rome and as far East as China.
Thai/Khmer Beads: It is likely these beads were first made in what is now Thailand & Kampuchea in the first centuries AD, and they are still being made today. Their manufacture involves creating beads from thin strips of pure silver, filling the inside with a tree resin for strength and then engraving and chasing the designs by hand. The beads’ shapes and designs are inextricably bound to the Thai and Khmer religious, court, and village traditions from which they arose; and were likely influenced by the prominent Indian culture of the time.
Tradewind Beads:  Named for the winds that carried traders on the seas, these beads were produced in India, Sri Lanka and Southwest Asia from 300BC until approximately 1000AD. These simple beads were traded throughout Asia and are found as far away as Timbuktu in West Africa, the Middle East and the Roman Empire. Even today they are still required in certain ceremonies in islands of Eastern Indonesia.
Venetian “Fancy” Beads: Madein Venice for trade to Africa and other parts of the world including Asiaand the Americas, 1600’s to early 1900’s. Technique includes decorating an individual bead by “trailing” hot glass (like frosting a cake) while working at a bead making lamp.