Friday, September 24, 2010

A Brief History of Beads

Beads are jewelry components made from clay, wood, stone, tooth and glass. A hole is bored or cut through to allow a piece of string such as twine, fiber or thread to pass through. The beads are then grouped together to form a cohesive piece of jewelry - bracelets, necklaces, anklets.

Ancient beads privately collected and owned by

Ancient beads have allowed archaeologists, a glimpse of early human societies and their cultures. Beads denoted social status as a symbol of wealth and power. They were used as currency, in barter and trading. Beads that are made into ornate jewelry have a profound effect on mating rituals and weddings.

The First Glass Beads
The first objects crafted entirely of glass were beads from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt dating from about 2500 BC.

Ancient Millefiori beads made of glass from

The Millefiori beads we know today were first created by the Phoenicians. Millefiori beads are colored molten glass stretched into thin canes.

Modern Millefiori beads made of plastic

Artisans from Venice and Murano Italy are known for their exquisite Venetian beads. They develop pioneering techniques in creating beads that are still used even today such a lampworking or coating a mandrel with molten glass and wounding it around a metal rod.

An interesting catalog of ancient Murano glass beads by an Italian Murano glass company called
Ercole Moretti

Another process of making Venetian beads starts with a large glass bubble. As it is blown by one operator, another pulls it to form a tube that may be as long as 100 feet.The bubble has become the hollow center of the beads that may now be cut from the tube. The sharp glass edges of the beads are rounded by being tumbled and heated along with a mixture of ashes and sand that prevents the beads from fusing.

In the middle ages, we have the rural town of Bohemia to thank for the thriving industry of Fire Polished beads. Czech glassmakers had a steady supply of firewood due to its forest terrain.

This allowed Czech artisans to experiment with glassmaking techniques for centuries. They developed pressed-glass beads. They created molds where they could pour the molten glass and stamp the glass beads. Though the Czech glassmaking industry suffered through World War I and WWII, it was able to regain its throne as one of the world's best bead manufacturers. Today, quality glass beads are often associated with Czech glass beads particularly for their glass seed beads.

The principal consideration in beadmaking is consistency of color and size.

Glass stems to be machine cut into glass beads by bead supplier Tianjin Ruiying Glass Artifical Factory

Modern materials and mass production facilities ensure uniformity with the use of commercial plastics and machine cut crystals. But the brilliance and art that comes with handmade glass beads remained unmatched in value.


  1. hi vivi,

    i sent you an email some 48years ago, haha, sometime in july this year. asking about seminars on how to do accessories. ;) do you think you can still me anytime soon, so you can teach me how to do the loop? over coffee?

    let me know.


  2. Sure Cath! Since someone only taught me how din, I have no problem sharing, but a loop's very easy to do. email kita :)



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