Sindi provided the chapter members with a NEW appreciation for beads! Who knew beads had such a storied history and value!
Sindi’s discussion went a long way in helping smooth over the “disconnect” between the fine jewelry enthusiasts and beading enthusiasts. Beads were the first jewelry developed by man, and the value of beads is going up every year!
What is a bead?
Bead comes from an Anglosaxon word “Bede” which means to pray and many religions have some type of prayer beads.
Beads do not need to be round or have holes drilled in them. The earliest beads had notches that allowed them to be suspended by sinew or plant fibers. Beads were one of the first trade items and may have been used by early man to identify one clan from another.
“Mankind’s first art and earliest evidence for abstract thinking and the use of symbolism!” Jamey Allen, Bead Scholar
“The single most global identifier of mankind!” Thomas Stricker, Bead Scholar
“A Universal Language of Human Connection” Kim Siebert
Some beads are used as Amulets or Talisman
Amulets keep evil away, anything that makes noise, has a fringed effect or carries the design of eye, spot or circle, all ward against the evil eye.
A Talisman brings good towards you.
Sindi provided a run-down of beads and milestones through the ages.
Beads date from 100,000 to 130,000 years ago!
As early as the PALEOLITHIC PERIOD, before rock art the first Beads were worn by cavemen.
Beads appeared throughout Asia, Africa and Europe around 45,000 to 60,000 years ago.
Some ancient humans used the heishi technique of grinding, chipping and fashioning beads.
The most important bead materials during this time were freshwater and saltwater shells, as well as beads of pierced ostrich eggshell, bones, animal parts (claws, teeth, bones) and soft stones.
During the NEOLITHIC PERIOD around 9000 B.C., farming began with the domestication of plants and animals. Use of wool and linen for clothing as well as fermentation of beer and wine for drinking.
Obsidian traded widely by 7000 B.C. Obsidian or natural glass was also used for tools and weapons, as well as for drill bits and beads.
Around 6,000 B.C. and before Mesopotamian times, stamp seals were suspended like a bead, used for personal identification.
First appearance of Green Beads, as well as Dot in circle motif. Earliest jade beads in China appear.
Beads were made mostly of soft stones but harder stones like quartz began to be used as well.
The first use of glazing and first faience beads, faience beads have 2,000 years of domination before being replaced by glass.
During the BRONZE AGE from 4500 to 1200 B.C.
Saw the building of Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, Egyptians were bead makers.
Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley (Pakistan & India), civilizations develope writing, metalworking, cultivation of cotton and silk.
First appearance of true glass, invented in Middle East between 2500-2300 B.C.
Virtually all early glass products were beads, bead making was the start of glass technology!
Earliest glass vessels did not appear until after glass beads, vessels are found around 1,500 B.C.
Use of agate, carnelian, and lapis for beads, use of Bow drills with sapphire bits to drill conical holes into beads.
Agate eye beads appear followed later by glass eye beads. Glass eye beads were popular during King Tut’s time.
IRON AGE from 1200 to 332 B.C.
Age of Philosophy included Confucius in China, Buddha in India, Pythagorus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Greece. The conquest of Alexander the Great creates what will become the Silk Route, bringing trade to most of the known world.
First use of diamond chips to drill stone beads in India around 600 B.C.
Phoenicians are making and trading beads. China creates eye beads and early glass to imitate jade.
Beads are Heirlooms providing an ancestral connection. Ancient dZI, gZi or zi beads 2,500 B.C. to 400 A.D. Ancient Collectible dZi or gZi Bead designs, are made from decorated agate. Today the dZi bead is one of the most valuable beads and there are many imitators.
GREAT AGE OF EMPIRES from 330 B.C. to 200 A.D.
Roman Empire dominated most of Europe and North Africa.
By 100 B.C. The Silk Route to China is actively moving beads from place to place.
Bead design includes intricate mosaics, checkerboards, faces, and portrait beads.
POST ROMAN PERIOD from 330 A.D. to 1,453 A.D.
Western Roman Empire falls, replaced by the Byzantine Empire.
Beginning of Islamic Period, which produced both fine glass and beads from 622 A.D. to 1400 A.D.
The Medieval Period from 600 to 1,300 A.D. brings Vikings, Marco Polo, European Crusades, and Asian Mongols. Venice starts glass bead making industry, soon followed by other European countries.
VICTORIAN PERIOD from 1837 to 1900.
Venetians invented “goldstone” or “aventurine” glass beads, Austria invents foiled backed glass “RHINESTONES”.
Bohemia/Czechoslovakia “iris” or “lustering” beads. Experts in molding beads and buttons, Bohemia began coping many of the most desired beads from around the world.
Glass bead production and faceting from 1680 to 1920’s, all used extensively for trade. Beads were traded for slaves, ivory, gold and palm oil in Africa.
First cultured pearls from Japan appear during this time.
EDWARDIAN PERIOD from 1901 to 1915, saw the first imitation cultured pearls, and the age of Plastics.
Sindi provided a review of bead making techniques which included Wound, Lampwound, Drawn, Molded, and Powder bead making. As well as an Around the World look at beads and adornment, including a handout of Collectible Beads and pricing.
When determining value:
Age – Radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry, Chemical analysis: Trace impurities & isotope analysis. Signs of wear both on the surface and holes.
Color – Clear can adds $10 per bead; Turquoise, blue, pink are even more rare.
Shape – Collar Beads, Flattened Ellipsoidal, Cylinder, Round, Millefiori; Elbows – Tabular – Square/Rectangular, Chevrons.
Finishing – Endless variety.
Condition – Raised Dots, worn or chipped edges.
Design – Particular rare designs were given trade names like: “Lewis & Clark”, “French Ambassador”, “Baule Face”, “Ghost”, “pink pineapples”.
Matching – Shapes, designs, and sizes can increases value.
Cultural Significance – Ancient to present-day purposes such as heirloom.
History of Beads, 100,000 to Present. Dubin
Beads of the World. Francis
A Bead Timeline, Prehistory to 1200 CE. Lankton
Collectible Beads. Robert Liu
Summary by Charles Marts
Photos by Denise Nelson G.G. (GIA)