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Freshwater Pearls Beads, Pearl Jewelry, baltimore, maryland, virginia, va, md, dc
This Dictionary of Beads is a labor of love and a work in progress. We welcome your comments and suggestions through the Contact Us link. Select from the blue alphabet to jump to the letter you want in the Dictionary, but give the file a little time to load first. To get back to the top and select another letter use Control+Home (or Command+Home on Macs). We are continuously adding to the Dictionary, so check back often.

To search for keywords in Dictionary headings, enter the word (singular will pull more results) in the Search box at the top right of this screen. From the drop-down menu, select Dictionary, then click Go. Entries that contain your word will appear grouped together. Or, using your browser's search function, you can search the entire Dictionary. For example in internet Explorore use Control+F and in Apple Command+F.

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AB Finish

This iridescent finish used on glass and plastic beads is named after the colorful lights seen in northern skies, the aurora borealis, or AB for short. The finish is also called rainbow.

AB beads may be any color and are usually monochromatic and transparent, but they may also be matte or even pearlized, as well as striped or silver-lined. Beads are given an AB finish by passing them through vaporized metal ions. This process leaves a thin deposit on their surface of tiny metallic particles, which break up light waves into the colors of the spectrum, much as water droplets refract sunlight to create a rainbow. This iridescent play of light causes the underlying color of the beads to shift, sometimes considerably.

AB finish is widely used on seed beads and bugles; Czech molded glass beads, both smooth and faceted; plastic plain and fancy shapes; and cut glass crystals.

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See Also: Fumed Glass Iris Finish Swarovski Crystal


Czech firepolished beads, smallest have AB finish.
Robert K. Liu

Glass seed beads with AB finish.
Cas Webber
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Abalone Shell

Mother-of-pearl from the nacreous lining of abalone shells has been used to make beads and ornaments since prehistoric times. Abalone is a marine mollusk of the genus Haliotis with worldwide distribution. Species native to California coastal waters produce beautiful blue- and green-hued iridescent nacre. Their shells were traded near the Pacific Ocean and then trekked by foot far inland, to the deserts and high plateaus of the Southwest in pre-Columbian times.

There the Anasazi and other Native American artisans cut abalone shell into thin disk beads and geometric pendants, and crafted inlaid and mosaic ornaments combining shell with other precious materials, such as jet and turquoise. Contemporary abalone shell beads and pendants made in the Philippines also often feature inlay and mosaic work.

The abalone produces pearls as well, usually small, in shades of blue to greenish yellow.

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See Also: Mother-of-Pearl Pearls Shell Beads


Pendant with abalone shell.
Cas Webber
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Abo

This Hausa term for bauxite beads is widely used by West Africa traders. Abo refers to the weathered reddish soils from which bauxite is formed and which make up the dusty earth of much of Africa.

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See Also: Bauxite Beads


Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana. Bauxite is aluminum ore.
Cas Webber
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Adjagba Beads

Also called azagba, zagba, or adjaba, these large powder glass beads are made by the Krobo people of Ghana. Usually formed in clay molds, the beads measure up to 5 cm long and range from nearly cylindrical to barrel shaped, and sometimes biconical. Adjagba typically have a yellow or ochre matrix with a grainy texture, which is decorated with longitudinal stripes, often twisted into spirals, in black, blue, green, brown, or red. Occasionally the beads are further embellished with spots, circles, or equatorial bands. The designs are made by funneling contrasting colors of powdered glass into the mold or inserting pre-formed glass elements.

Adjagba beads—especially older ones—are treasured by the Krobo and worn on important occasions, such as the Dipo ceremony. Then girls reaching marriageable age are adorned with the family’s finest beads to celebrate their puberty.

When Krobo beadmakers created adjagba they may have been inspired by the colorful striped glass beads from Venice that flooded the African market in the 19th century. But could it be the other way around? The entrepreneurial Venetians were masters at designing beads to appeal to the traditional tastes of their customers.

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See Also: Akoso Beads Bodom Beads Krobo Beads Powder Glass Beads

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Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads

In the 20th century, beautiful ancient stone beads from Afghanistan became available to collectors. These included materials that were regarded as precious in antiquity—lapis lazuli and hardstones, such as agates and rock crystals—as well as stones or minerals that were attractive for their patterns or grains, which were enhanced by ancient lapidaries.

This continually war-torn country probably did not produce all these beads; neighboring Pakistan and India, who were also beadmakers in ancient times, likely produced some of them. Afghanistan was, however, the source of the tabular and lenticular beads, which showcase the beauty of the stones, many of which are translucent. The coveted long bicone beads, as well as leech beads, also came from Afghanistan. In addition, Afghanistan was a source of etched carnelians of various types and even some shell beads.

The beads shown in these images range in age from the Neolithic Period to Islamic times and measure from 0.8 to 6.7 cm long. Many of the tabular and lenticular beads date to the third millennium BC. Today beautiful replicas divert collectors from the pursuit of these ancient beads by providing the market with beads having the attractive shapes of these ancient Afghan tabular and leech beads.

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See Also: Agate Carnelian Etched Agate Beads Etched Carnelian Beads Hardstone Beads Lapis Lazuli Leech Beads Lenticular Shell Beads Tabular Beads


Assortment of ancient stone and shell beads from Afghanistan, including so-called etched beads.
Robert K. Liu

Strand of ancient hardstone beads from Afghanistan, modern stringing; note the beauty of the stone patterns as revealed by their makers.
Robert K. Liu

Array of ancient stone beads from Afghanistan, primarily hardstones, including two leech beads to the bottom right.
Robert K. Liu
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Afghan Beads

In ancient times, as it is today, Afghanistan was the source of the world’s most beautiful lapis lazuli. But other stones including carnelian, crystal, serpentine, jaspers and various quartz hardstones were also cut and polished in Afghanistan.

Metalworking, too, has a long history in Afghanistan and several different nomadic groups evolved distinctive beads and pendants. Among these the most famous are the Turkoman or Turkmen who produced a stunning array of jewelry for humans and animals featuring silver, often with fire-gilding, set mostly with carnelian stones.

Ongoing warfare has severely impacted everyone in Afghanistan, harming among other things, all parts of the bead industry from mining to beadmaking. Today, many traditional Afghan beads that reach western markets are produced by refugees in Pakistan. Among the most popular are replicas of ancient stone beads from the region in semi-matte carnelian, lapis, turquoise, and a green serpentine we know as olive jade.

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See Also: Agate Carnelian Etched Agate Beads Etched Carnelian Beads Hardstone Beads Lapis Lazuli Leech Beads Lenticular Shell Beads Tabular Beads


Afghan coral, shell, and silver beads and pendants.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Afghan beads of lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate, quartz crystal and jasper. Etched carnelians at bottom.
Robert K. Liu
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African Amber

Along with chevrons and Venetian millefiori beads, African amber is among the most popular of beads from the African trade. It is also among the most misunderstood. The large oblate, round, cylindrical and diamond-shaped beads command high prices in African markets because they are still highly valued locally, as they have been for at least 100 years. When Americans discover that the beads are not actually amber they often feel they have been cheated. This, however, is not the case.

The situation is similar to the phenomenon of “cultural jades” in south and Central America. There, jade is the most highly revered and valued stone, however, the definition of jade is not as narrow as our own gemological one. Especially among the Maya, any hard greenish stone was accepted as jade regardless of whether it was technically nephrite or jadite—the only two stones we accept as true jade.

Similarly, the synthetic amber imported into Africa primarily during the 19th century was accepted by Africans from Mali and Mauritania to Morocco and the Sudan. Carved into different shapes for each region, the beads have strong social significance and aesthetic appeal. Handed down for generations, some specimens have even been lovingly repaired with brass, copper, or silver wire, attesting to their worth and importance to their owners. Women, especially among the Dogon people of Mali, consider their amber beads to be an investment.

East African amber beads found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are mostly cylindrical, sometimes with rounded ends. In Mali and among the Berbers of Morocco, oblate and almost round shapes are most popular for necklaces. The wealthy Fulani of Mali wear amber beads of all shapes as hair ornaments. From Mauritania come the distinctive diamond-shaped beads, sometimes drilled in two or even three directions and/or decorated with carved designs.

Despite the fact that the material is a synthetic (Bakelite or similar), and not a million-year-old tree resin, older African amber maintains its value and appeal. The best specimens are a dark honey color, quite heavy and opaque, often with a few fine black crack lines that enhance rather than diminish their desirability for collectors.

Cheap modern amber imitations are lighter in weight, lighter and brighter in color, and more translucent exhibiting swirling patterns in the plastic. These beads were adopted by Africans for whom the valuable original African amber beads were financially out of reach, and they were sold to tourists who didn’t know the difference. Today Indonesia, and possibly China, produce much better quality imitations of the original African amber. Generally not designed to deceive anyone, these attractive beads come in oblate, round, and cylindrical shapes and are marketed as “resin”. They are much less costly than the original African amber beads, but because they are new and plentiful they are also less valuable to collectors.

More information to come...

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See Also: Amber Burmese Amber Amber Amber Imitations


African amber from Mali.
Robert K. Liu
Freshwater Pearls Beads, Pearl Jewelry, baltimore, maryland, virginia, va, md, dc
African amber bead, possibly copal, showing careful and decorative repair, attesting to the value of these beads.
Robert K. Liu
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African Beads

This vast category of beads includes beads made in Africa of organic materials (coconut shell, clam and ostrich eggshell, snake and fish vertabrae, etc.) metal (Akan brass and gold, Ethiopian and Tuareg silver, copper, and brass) glass (powder glass, Kiffa, recycled glass) stone (amazonite, granite, bauxite, etc.) and more. In addition, beads traded primarily from Europe and adopted by Africans are now part of the bead wealth exported from Africa through a network of bead traders. European contributions to the African bead trade include Venetian lampworked and millefiori trade beads, Bohemian pressed glass beads, German stone beads, French Prosser beads, seed beads, and more. More information to come.

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See Also: Chevron Beads Kiffa Beads Annular Beads Trade Beads African Amber African Recycled Glass Beads African Shell Beads Venetian Lampworked Beads Venetian Mosaic Beads Venetian Trade Beads Pressed Glass Beads Ashanti Gold


Beads traded to Africa and made in Africa (outer row.)
Cas Webber
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African Recycled Glass Beads

The Krobo people of Ghana have a long history of making beads from recycled glass. The tradition of powder glass beadmaking has now been joined by wound glass beads and beads made with technologies unique to this area. More information to come...

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See Also: Powder Glass Beads


Recycled glass beads made by the Krobo people of Ghana in West Africa.
Cas Webber

Powder glass striped tube beads.
Robert K. Liu
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African Shell Beads

Shells have been popular bead materials since earliest times. In Africa, several types of shell beads have been used. Along the west coast flat disc-shaped “heishi” beads were made from clam shells, further inland very similar beads were made from large snail shells, while among the Turkana people of Kenya and the San (or Bushmen) of southern African, ostrich egg shells were used for heishi. Small to medium size snail shells and the ubiquitous cowrie shells are perforated and strung whole. Larger shells, cut into rectangular pieces, have been marketed as “hippo teeth”, while slices off the tips of conus shells are popular as protective hair ornaments in Mauritania and among the Berber people of Morocco.

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See Also: Clamshell Disk Beads Coconut Shell Disk Beads Conus Shell Cowrie Shell Disk Beads Heishi Hippo Teeth Ostrich Eggshell Disk Beads Snail Shell Disk Beads


Ostrich eggshell heishi.
Cas Webber

Center front shell is a European glass imitation "hippo tooth" shell bead. The rest of the strand consists of Arca shell beads known in the trade as "hippo teeth."
Robert K. Liu

Strand of African conus shell tip beads.
Robert K. Liu
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African Turquoise

More green than blue, this stone, found in Africa, ranges in hardness from 5 to 8 on the Mohs scale and is a good example of a double-named bead. Usually a double name is a warning that the stone in question is not what its second name implies. African turquoise is not related to turquoise, the stone so beloved in ancient Egypt, the Himalayan countries, and the American southwest.

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Pendant of African turquoise.
Cas Webber
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Agate

The chameleon of gemstones, agate has been prized by beadmakers since Neolithic times for the beauty of its myriad colors and patterns. Also valued for its toughness, this variety of chalcedony, a fine-grained form of quartz, is excellent for cutting and carving because of its fibrous structure.

Agate is made up of layers of microcrystals that range from translucent to opaque and may be similar or variegated in color. Agate is usually formed in cavities in volcanic rock, where silica-rich water builds up successive crystalline layers of variable thickness that line the walls of the cavity. In cross section, an agate nodule displays concentric bands that may be circular, wavy, or angular, depending on the contours of the cavity. The colors of the layers—most commonly white, gray, and brown tones, but also shades of yellow, pink, green, and blue—are due to mineral impurities.

If layers of agate do not fill a cavity completely, large quartz crystals may grow in the center of the nodule, forming a geode. When quartz microcrystals form in organic material, pseudomorphic agate may result, which takes on the shape and structure of ancient plants or animals as agate replaces substances such as wood or bone through the process of fossilization.

The markings of ornamental agates have given rise to many descriptive names (sometimes misnomers), such as eye agate, snakeskin agate, and crazy lace agate. The zigzag bands of fortification agate evoke the walls of a medieval bastion. Iris agate displays rainbow hues, while fire agate glows with a reddish iridescence.

Moss agate and its variants—tree agate, feather agate, cloud agate, even landscape agate—are technically not agates; rather, they are chalcedony with patterns that are due, not to banding, but to dendritic, or branchlike, inclusions that can create remarkable pictorial effects.

Chalcedony marked by straight, parallel bands of strongly contrasting white and black or dark brown is called onyx; a similar variety with white and reddish brown layers is called sardonyx.

Throughout history, agate beads and ornaments have been treasured not only for adornment but also as talismans. The folk wisdom of various cultures has endowed agate with a multitude of powers—to protect against the evil eye, cure fevers and insomnia, ward off lightning, increase a wearer’s oratorical skill, and quench thirst. Thus generations of camel drivers have sucked on agates as they cross the desert.

Today agate is the gemstone most commonly used for beads, but in antiquity it was a rare and precious material. Finely worked stone beads used in necklaces, armlets, and anklets found in Neolithic graves in Anatolia attest to a well-established long-distance trade in agate as early as 7000 BC. Later, agate from India and Afghanistan was traded over thousands of miles to Mesopotamia, classical Rome, Central Asia, and China. Around 2000 BC spectacular agate ornaments—a long curving leech bead capped in gold, a dark luminous eye bead almost 4 across—were buried with their owners in the royal Sumerian graves at Ur. The finest agate beads of the ancient world, however, come from northern Afghanistan; dating from the 3rd millennium BC, they are masterfully cut in rhomboid or ellipsoid shapes, with lenticular cross sections, to reveal the beauty of their natural colors and patterns.

In pre-Hispanic America, from around AD 800 to the early 1500s, the Tairona, renowned goldsmiths of ancient Colombia, also worked agate, incorporating the stone’s markings into the design of beads and animal amulets.

Before the present era, agate nodules and finished beads from India found their way via Arab traders to eastern and northern Africa and thence inland. This trading pattern grew dramatically with the growth of the Indian lapidary industry around Cambay from 1300. Two enduring agate shapes in the African market are triangular pendants, culminating in the talhakimt prized by the Tuareg, and shield-shaped Muslim amulets, known as Babaghoria pendants. In the 19th century, German lapidaries, working stone imported from South America, reproduced these motifs and created new designs, and Idar-Oberstein soon superseded Cambay to become the largest supplier of agate beads and ornaments to Africa.

Agate occurs worldwide, but Brazil and Uruguay now constitute the largest commercial source, producing an abundance of drab gray agate devoid of distinctive markings. Like all chalcedony, however, agate is porous and can be color enhanced by the application of various solutions and heating. So finished agates are often not their natural color today.

Although the Germans perfected techniques for treating gemstones, they did not invent them. The artificial enhancement of agates is an ancient practice. Some four thousand years ago Harappans in the Indus Valley darkened banded agate to create the striking contrasts of onyx. The famous Himalayan dZi bead, long revered in Tibet, is agate that has been “etched” to accentuate its banding. In Roman times agates were not only dyed but imitated in glass. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Czech glassmakers raised the simulation of agate and other gemstones to a high art.

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads Babaghoria Agate Pendant Banded Agate Blue Lace Agate Botswana Agate Cambay Carnelian Chalcedony Crazy Lace Agate dZi Beads Etched Agate Beads Etched Carnelian Beads Eye Agate Eye Beads Fossilized Bead Material


Carnelian and other agate beads all cut and polished in the German gem center of Idar Oberstein.
Robert K. Liu

Indian carnelian beads carved in traditional shapes.


Robert K. Liu

Ancient stone beads.


Robert K. Liu
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Agate Glass

Developed in the Bohemian pressed glass making centers of Europe, agate glass was designed to mimic stone beads. White and black glass was partially mixed with various colors to form swirls and bands. In addition to mimicking agates, malachite and other stones, colors never found in nature were also used: bright yellow, purple, blues, etc. This glass was often molded into shapes that replicated desirable stone beads, and the results exported to Africa, the Middle East and India where they were traded for commodities. Some of the most striking examples of agate glass in Africa are seen in collections of lightbulb-shaped beads also known as wedding beads or don don sole.

Examples of agate glass can be found in vintage German pressed glass beads and in contemporary Czech glass production which, due to popular demand, has been reviving old color recipes and molds.

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See Also: Fulani Wedding Beads Don Don Sole Druks Pressed Glass Beads


Pressed glass trade beads including examples of pink and brown agate glass
Robert K. Liu

Tabular Fulani Wedding Beads, striped ones are agate glass.
Cas Webber

Vintage European pressed glass beads including agate glass examples (two tone and striped).
Robert K. Liu
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Aggrey Beads

The identification of the famed aggrey beads of Africa has been a subject of much heated debate and has not yet been settled by a comprehensive study, although several manuscripts written by American bead researchers exist. Yanagida, a Japanese journalist, has published a small paper showing some possible candidates for the aggrey, or akori beads and Busch has published a plausible identity for these elusive beads. Other names for possible aggrey beads are cori or segi, but the distinguishing characteristic is the display of dichroism, evident when these drawn beads are viewed under both reflected- and trans-illumination. Many have a corded surface. Those shown here are monochrome blue glass under reflected light and are somewhat different from those of essentially the same color but possessing inlaid red stripes, which some regard as a good candidate for the real aggrey bead.

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Shown are an array of dichroic, corded beads from Nigeria and their Czech or Venetian imitations on the left; the longest are 1.5 cm.
Robert K. Liu

Various dichroic glass segi/koli/cori beads from Africa, under trans-illumination, to show their dichroic nature.
Robert K. Liu

Various dichroic glass segi/koli/cori beads from Africa, under reflected light
Robert K. Liu
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Akoso Beads

Also called akosu or akossou, these beads are members of the prestigious family of powder glass beads produced in Ghana in West Africa. Akoso beads are made by the Krobo and possibly the Ewe peoples, who value them highly and attribute to them amuletic powers.

 

Akoso are typically large cylindrical or barrel-shaped beads (up to 5 cm long). They consist of a crude granular core that is encased in a thin coat of finer yellow glass, which is decorated with preformed glass elements. The core, which may or may not be dark, is made of crushed scrap glass. Traditionally, the yellow outer coating was made of ochre-colored Venetian glass beads that were ground to a fine powder. These 19th-century trade beads were expensive, however, so Krobo beadmakers mixed the powder with pulverized white glass from cold cream jars—a combination that gives akoso beads a creamy hue.

Crisscrossed loops and figure 8s are the defining designs of akoso beads. They may appear to be trailed or impressed decorations, but they are, in fact, prefired plates bearing these designs. These preformed elements were placed against the inner wall of a vertical mold before it was filled with powdered glass and prepared for firing. Akoso beads often also exhibit circular eyes, which sometimes have a European bead, such as a green heart or a white heart, embedded in the center. Occasionally the beads are embellished with longitudinal stripes or a band around the equator. Beads that display these characteristic akoso motifs but also share some of the distinctive patterns and/or shapes of bodom beads are called akoso-bodom.

 

The applied decorations are made of colored glass mainly in shades of brick red, green, and dark brown, but also black and, more rarely, blue. These colors appear to have been obtained primarily from Venetian lampworked beads as well as from European pony and seed beads, which were pulverized in great quantities—until the 1980s. Then ceramic colorants came on the market in Ghana and brought an end to this costly practice.

 

Some researchers date akoso beads to the mid-1800s, when Venetian trade beads were arriving in West Africa by the boatload. Others have placed these powder glass beads much earlier, while still others say there is no evidence for them before 1900. The beads shown in the second image below were made on different continents by different methods, but it is clear they are remarkably similar. We do not know exactly when these beads were made, however, and it is not yet clear whether Ghanaian beadmakers were imitating Venetian glass beads when they created powder glass akoso beads, or whether the Venetians created lampworked beads that look like akoso beads to cater to an existing market.

 

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See Also: Adjagba Beads Bodom Beads Krobo Beads Powder Glass Beads


A powder glass akoso bead is shown between two old chevron beads. This akoso bead is so worn that the gray glass core shows through the thin outer layer of yellow glass. Such abrasion may
Robert K. Liu


This collection of Akoso beads includes Venetian lampworked examples (the smaller beads on the upper row) as well as Krobo powder glass beads (the larger bead at the left on the
Robert K. Liu

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Alexandrite

A gem variety of chrysoberyl, named after Tzar Alexander II of Russia, that appears green in daylight and red in artificial light. Also a type of glass that changes color from light blue to light lavender depending on the type of light.

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Alloy

The alloys most commonly used for beads include sterling silver, the combination of pure silver and copper; brass, the marriage of copper and zinc; and bronze; the blending of copper and tin. The newly patented sterling silver alloy called Argentium adds germanium to the mix of silver and copper to produce a metal similar to sterling silver, except that it resists tarnishing and does not produce firescale when soldered. Alpaca is a South American base-metal alloy, similar to nickel silver or German silver, none of which actually contain any silver.

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See Also: Metal Beads Argentium Alpaca Silver Nickel Silver German Silver


Brass or bronze alloy beads made from recycled metal in Ghana.
Cas Webber
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Alpaca Silver

An alloy of nickel, zinc, copper and iron that does not rust or tarnish easily. It is widely used for relatively inexpensive jewelry and beads made in Peru. The metal is similar to nickel silver, which might also contain tin, lead or cadmium, and German silver, which does not contain iron.

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Alphabet Beads

Beads that feature letters of the alphabet stamped or painted onto the faces of the beads. These beads are usually coin- or cube-shaped and may be made of glass, plastic, clay or porcelain, and base- or precious metals.

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Aluminum

As a material for beads, aluminum is quite unusual. The lightweight, relatively soft silvery material is, however, popular among the Gabbra people of Kenya in East Africa. Traditionally they have created massive collars and long necklaces of aluminum beads said to have been made from old aluminum pots that were melted down. The beads appear to have been forged or hammered into traditional shapes including cubes, cornerless cubes, short cylinders and bicones.

In the United States, some short sections of brightly colored anodized aluminum tubing are available as beads. The finish on these beads is quite durable, but the large hole-size and limited shape options reduces their appeal for most bead enthusiasts.

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Amazonite

Microcline, a form of alkali feldspar comes in a variety of colors, but the light aqua version called amazonite is the one most often used in jewelry. India produces much of the world’s supply, but amazonite is also found in Brazil, Madagascar, Namibia, Zimbabwe, the USA, and Canada. Measuring 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness, Russian amazonite is often a brighter color than amazonite from other areas and is sometimes streaked with whitish inclusions.

Ancient gray-green Amazonite beads have been collected in Mauritania, although we don’t know where the material was mined. The holes in these beads are conical, with large openings at the ends where the perforations begin, but only a tiny passage connects the two channels where they meet in the center of the bead. This indicates that the beads were most likely perforated by grinding with abrasives, rather than drilling and is evidence of their great age. Ancient Egyptians used amazonite in jewelry so it’s possible that some of the material was transported across the Sahara to Mauritania. In pre-Colombian South- and Central America, amazonite served as a form of “cultural jade”—a stone that was valued and revered as jade even though it was neither jadeite nor nephrite.

In crystal healing, amazonite is said to stimulate the heart chakra, awakening compassion, and the throat chakra, encouraging us to speak our truth. Also known as the stone of harmony and peace, amazonite is believed to help in communicating true thoughts and feelings while helping us see any issue from both sides. Amazonite supports both dreaming and meditation.

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Four inner strands and the beads at the center of the outer strand are African amazonite stone beads from Mauritania.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary amazonite beads.
Cas Webber
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Amber

The hardened, translucent fossil resin from extinct coniferous trees that grew during the Tertiary Period 65 to 1.6 million years ago. The largest deposits occur around the southern edge of the Baltic Sea in Europe; in the Dominican Republic; Burma and Mexico. Amber has been a highly valued bead material since ancient times when amber trade routes ran from Europe into Africa and Asia. As a precious commodity amber has been widely imitated. In the metaphysical realm amber is known for creating a comfortable sense of warmth and is recommended for those recovering from illness. Associated with longevity, amber is also considered beneficial for the elderly. Combined with jet, amber is said to facilitate purification, health and protection from negativity.


For excellent information on amber see David A. Grimaldi, Amber: Window to the Past, 1996.

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See Also: Burmese Amber African Amber


A collection of loose Tibetan amber beads.
Robert K. Liu

A range of colors and shapes of Baltic amber beads.
Cas Webber
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Amber Imitations

Information to come...

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Ambroid

An amber imitation made by fusing shavings and small chips of amber together. It has a distinctive appearance with grainy or cloudy inclusions

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Amethyst

The name amethyst comes from the Greek meaning “not drunken.” Ranging from palest lavender to deep royal purple, amethyst’s large transparent to translucent crystals are sometimes banded with milky white stripes. The most highly valued quartz, amethyst has been used to embellish the breastplates of Jewish priests, the ecclesiastical rings of Catholic bishops, and the crowns of British kings and queens.

Found in geodes in alluvial deposits, amethyst occurs mainly in Brazil, but also in Uruguay, Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia, the US, and the former USSR.

According to various traditions, amethyst brings friendship, happiness, and good fortune. Placed under a pillow, it induces sleep and sweet dreams. An amethyst amulet protects travelers against surprise attack, wards off homesickness, and—much appreciated by wives—ensures constancy and sobriety.

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Contemporary amethyst beads cut and drilled in Hong Kong.
Cas Webber
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Ametrine

This naturally occuring stone combines purple amethyst and golden citrine. A member of the quartz family, ametrine measures 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is found in India, Brazil and Bolivia.

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See Also: Amethyst Citrine

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Amulets

A bead or pendant believed to ward off evil. Some amulets draw their power from their shape; others are trusted as charms because of the material they are made of. Eye beads were among the earliest recorded amulets. They are said to protect wearers by attracting the evil eye, thus deflecting it from the wearer. The hamsa or hand pendant, on the other hand, is believed to repel the evil eye entirely. Talismans, the complements to amulets, are believed to attract good fortune and positive forces rather than repelling or disarming the negative.

Amulet boxes that contain verses from holy scriptures or other sacred objects are frequently worn in Himalayan countries, India, and the Islamic world.

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See Also: Donkey Beads—Iranian and Egyptian Faience Gao Box Eye Beads Talismans Phallic Pendants—Ancient and Contemporary Egyptian Amulets


Nepalese Gao box amulet of silver and coral.
Robert K. Liu

Tuareg amulets from North Africa made of silver, copper and leather.
Robert K. Liu

An array of ancient Egyptian faience amulets, all molded, with some hand detailing; shown is an Apis bull, two Udjat or Eye of Horus, bicolor lotus bud, cornflower pendant, Taurt and a papyrus scepter.
Robert K. Liu
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Ancient Beads

Ancient is often defined as predating the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, but the history of beads began much earlier—at least 40,000 years ago. Traces of the earliest, most perishable beads, likely made from seeds, wood, bamboo and other organic materials, have long since disappeared. But archeological evidence shows that people started collecting, making and wearing beads of shell, bone, ivory, amber and other relatively soft materials almost as soon as they began thinking abstractly, walking upright and making tools of any kind.

The quantity, quality, and ritual use of beads produced by early humans are indicative of their cognitive development and great strides forward that were made between 33,000 and 18,000 years ago. Almost as soon as humans mastered any new material for any reason, they also made beads out if it. Some of the loveliest early beads are made of stone, but metals soon followed: copper, silver, gold, then brass and bronze. With the discovery of pottery came ceramic beads, glazes, then faience, and finally the most versatile, enduring and fascinating bead material of all: glass.

Lapidarists of the ancient Middle East were masters of their craft and produced exquisitely shaped and polished beads of lapis lazuli, turquoise, chalcedony, carnelian and a variety of dramatically patterned hardstones that are widely collected and imitated today. Techniques for artificially patterning stones, such as etched carnelians had been mastered at least 5000 years ago and sophisticated bead trade routes stretched from India to Africa, Central Asia to the Middle East, and from the Mediterranean to northern Europe in ancient times.

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads Faience Egyptian Amulets Trade Wind Beads


Ancient faience beads.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient glass beads.
Cas Webber

Ancient stone beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Angelskin Coral

A light pink, highly prized variety of precious coral. Coral is the external skeleton of marine animals that grow in colonies, forming large reefs in warm seas including the Mediterranean and south Pacific.

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See Also: Coral


Angelskin coral colored beads.
Cas Webber
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Ankh

An ancient Egyptian symbol for life, still widely used as a talisman to attract good fortune. It resembles a cross, but with a loop at the top. Ankhs have been made of metal, faience, glass, stone and probably many other materials as well including plastics

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Annealing

The process of gradually cooling hot glass beads under controlled conditions to avoid creating internal stresses in the glass that can cause the beads to crack. European, American and Japanese beadmakers have mastered annealing and practice it carefully. Bead industries in India and China are often less careful especially with mass-produced beads, so these suffer from a high rate of breakage.

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Annular Beads

Annular, or ring-shaped, beads are short, circular beads with large perforations. They vary greatly in size and design, and can be made from many different materials: shell, stone, bone, wood, amber, metal, plastic, and, especially, glass.

In the first millennium BC, Celtic beadmakers in Central Europe and the British Isles produced wound glass annulars in translucent blues and amber color; in opaque yellow, white, and terra-cotta; in what appears to be black, but is usually very dark green, brown, or violet; and in the natural pale greenish hue of uncolored glass. These beads ranged from small, unadorned “ringlets” less than 15 mm in diameter to large, decorated ringperlen, or ring beads, measuring more than 30 mm across. Besides being strung in necklaces, annulars were used to embellish earrings and hair ornaments. They were attached to brooches and weapons as talismans. And worn as totenringe, or finger rings for the dead, they often accompanied their owners to the grave.

Some 2000 years later, 19th-century Bavarian and Bohemian beadmakers produced great quantities of glass annulars for export. These beads are 10-14 mm in diameter. They are for the most part transparent blue or clear. But they are also found in dark green, amber, and opalescent glass, and, more rarely, in light green, red, or pale amethyst; however, the latter hue may be due to weathering.

Glass annular beads were traded mainly to Africa, where they were prized in every region. In East Africa, strands of annulars topped off the regalia of the chiefs who greeted missionary-explorer David Livingstone at Victoria Falls in 1855. In West Africa, they were strung on raffia and worn as necklaces or waistbands. Glass annulars were so sought after by the Dogon of Mali, that bead traders dubbed them Dogon donuts. Beginning in the 1990s in India, glass beadmakers in developing regions in Asia began producing these ever popular ?beads in a number of different colors.

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See Also: Celtic Ring Beads Ring Beads Ringperlen


A glass ring bead, probably from a Celtic site in Europe.
Robert K. Liu

Various colors of Dogon donut annular beads.
Robert K. Liu

Ethiopian ring beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Anthropomorphic Beads

Beads shaped like a human being or any part of the human body.

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See Also: Phallic Pendants—Ancient and Contemporary

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Antimony

A metal added to glass in Roman times and during the 17th century to help remove the natural green color to create clear glass. Manganese or “glassmaker’s soap” was first used for this purpose. Selenium has also been used. In metallurgy, antimony added to copper makes the alloy bronze.

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Anvil

Anvils are useful tools that provide a solid, flat surface for hammering wire pieces. They are normally made of steel, and both the top and the sides can be used as faces for hammering. Anvils are essential to achieve a professional finish.

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Miniature jewelry anvil.
Cas Webber
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Apatite

Apatite most often occurs in shades of blue or green, but it is also found in yellow, gray, white, purple, violet, or red-brown. Its name comes from apate, Greek for “deceit,”0 because it can easily be mistaken for other minerals such as peridot. The relative softness of apatite (5 on Mohs hardness scale) helps distinguish it from other gemstones. Russia and Canada hold some of the largest deposits of apatite. Additional sources are found in Germany, Mexico, and Madagascar.

On a metaphysical level, apatite makes one more susceptible to epiphanies. Apatite also benefits autistic and hyperactive children. Carrying apatite helps focus one’s energy when multi-tasking.

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Strand of faceted blue apatite rondels.

Cas Webber
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Aquamarine

The name aquamarine, derived from the Latin term for “water of the sea,” aptly describes the stone’s beautiful blue-green color. Natural high-quality aquamarine comes mostly from Brazil and Pakistan. Lower-quality beryl is often heat-treated to produce a blue tone, and it is then sold as aquamarine.

Throughout history, sailors have carried aquamarine to protect against drowning and other dangers of the sea. In healing, aquamarine soothes feelings of grief and loneliness. It also cools infections and reduces inflammation. Use aquamarine to break old patterns and put forth a new and improved self. Aquamarine is the birthstone for March.

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Aquamarine beads.
Cas Webber
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Arabesque

Combed floral decoration with spots used mainly on antique lampworked Venetian glass trade beads. This type of embellishment has also been called fancy, floral, spray, and wedding cake decoration. In the case of antique Venetian beads the design was usually marvered or rolled flush with the surface of the bead. Some contemporary American glass beadmakers who have adopted and adapted similar techniques prefer to leave the decoration raised.

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See Also: Marvering


Contemporary lampworked glass beads with Arabesque-style decoration.

Cas Webber


Fancy Venetian lampworked beads with floral Arabesque decoration, probably made for the European market.

Robert K. Liu
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Argentium

This new form of sterling silver that contains germanium was developed by Peter Johns during the 1990s at Middlesex University in England. Despite its higher price, this patented product appeals to beadmakers, wire producers, and jewelry manufacturers because of its high resistance to tarnishing, and the fact that, unlike regular sterling silver, it does not develop firescale when heated.

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Arikamedu

A leading beadmaking site in southeast India, active from 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD, where Indo-Pacific beads were made. These beads were traded extensively throughout the ancient world from southeast Asia to northwest Africa. According to bead researcher Peter Francis, Jr., the double diamond tipped drill bit was also invented here and bead technologies developed in Arikamedu spread throughout Asia.

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See Also: Indo-Pacific Beads

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Art Glass Beads

A name for the category of beads made primarily by contemporary American and Japanese glass beadmakers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. With the focus on quality rather than quantity, these beads can display exquisite detail and control of the medium. Inspired by ancient glass beads of China, the Middle East and Indonesia as well as Venetian glass and antique Japanese glass ojime, these beadmakers have continued to evolve techniques and materials to produce miniature works of art that are both collectible and wearable.

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See Also: Asao, Kyoyu Boylan, Tom Maher, Bruce St John Schneider, Don


Contemporary art glass beads by Keith Kreitter (3 pendants) Bruce St. John Maher (sacrab) and Donna Nova (leaf).
Cas Webber
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Asante

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See: Ashanti Gold

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Asao, Kyoyu

With the exception of a few pioneers, artists in the United States showed little interest in making lampworked glass beads until the early 1990s. The late Kyoyu Asao of Osaka, Japan, however, had already mastered this craft by the 1970s. A self-taught Renaissance Man, he learned glassworking, Japanese metalworking, pottery, lapidary work, and other techniques by himself. He also amassed an impressive collection of many types of artifacts, including beads. He earned a living making ornamented leather for purses and zori—traditional Japanese sandals.

The bead illustrated is Asao’s interpretation of an Edo Period tombodama, with the perforation sized to accommodate the twin cords used in inro ensembles of that time. Asao made all components for his beads, including precise mosaics. His total output was some five hundred beads, so these are now much sought-after collectibles.

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See Also: Japanese Beads


Components from the workshop of Kyoyu Asao, Japanese contemporary beadmaker.
Robert K. Liu

Kyoyu Asao’s interpretation of an Edo Period glass bead or ojime (1.9cm high).
Robert K. Liu
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Ashanti Gold

The Ashanti people, also called Asante, are members of the Akan group who have long ruled Ghana and parts of neighboring countries in West Africa. Gold was extremely important, and prolifically used, in Ashanti culture. Early European explorers reported extensive use of gold: as thread in textiles; hammered and applied to furniture; forged and cast into ornaments of all kinds.

The Ashanti had perfected the lost wax method of casting in gold by the 17th century. This process involves rolling bee’s wax into fine threads, which are then coiled and combined to build the detailed shape of bead or pendant. Soft wet clay was used to carefully encase the wax. A few openings (sprues) were left in the mold. When it was heated, the wax ran out of the mold through these holes. Later molten gold was poured into the mold and assumed the shape left by the lost wax. After it cooled, the mold was broken, releasing the golden bead. Unlike other forms of casting, this method insures that every bead is a unique original because once the mold is broken open it can’t be reused.

Today the Ashanti of Ghana and Baoulé of Cote d’Ivoire still make similar lost-wax cast beads from brass and bronze. Sometimes the beads are gold plated to mimic the original solid gold ones, now found only in museums and in the collections of Ashanti royalty.

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See Also: Baoulé Brass Lost-Wax Casting in Africa


Contemporary Ashanti gold-washed lost-wax cast bead.
Robert K. Liu

Lost-wax cast beads from Ghana.
Robert K. Liu
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Aught

This rather obscure measurement system for seed beads is written as the degree sign and always follows another number. For example 6° denotes size 6 glass seed beads. The larger the number in front of the aught, the smaller the bead. There is disagreement on what the numbers actually refer to. One probable theory is that it related to the number of beads per inch or centimeter, but because of variances in bead sizes between manufacturers this is impossible to verify. Seed beads generally available today include 13°, 12°, 11°, 10°, 8° and 6°. Some specialty dealers offer vintage seed beads in sizes 15° and smaller.

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Aurora Borealis Finish

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See: AB Finish

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Aventurine

This dark to light green quartz with iridescent spangles caused by tiny flakes of green fuchsite mica, brown iron oxides, or silvery pyrite crystals is found mainly in India, but also in Brazil and Russia.

Ancient Tibetans used aventurine—sometimes called “Indian jade”—to adorn their religious statues, especially as inlaid eyes to symbolize and enhance an image’s visionary power. Aventurine is thought to help in one’s search for inner harmony.

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Green aventurine beads.
Cas Webber

Red aventurine beads.
Cas Webber
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Aventurine Glass

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See: Goldstone

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Awl

A metal tool with smooth shaft and pointed tip used to make holes in leather, and as an alternative to beading tweezers, used to slide knots closer to the beads when knotting between beads.

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Beading awl.
Cas Webber
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Azurite

Azurite comes from the Arabic, for its deep azure or “sky-blue” blue color. This dark greenish-blue opaque stone occurs in the upper, oxidized layers of copper deposits, often mixed, or even inter-grown, with malachite. The stone was once pulverized and used as azure pigment. Today Australia, Chile, Russia, France, the US are the main sources of this soft semi-precious stones.

Thought to increase insight, azurite was used in antiquity in divination and hypnosis. Its cool, tranquil hue makes azurite a good stone for meditation.

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Babaghoria Agate Pendant

Babaghoria agate comes from the Ratanpur region of India and is named after Baba Ghor, the “patron saint” of the Indian agate industry who died early in the 15th century. This shape of pendant is named after him, according to bead researcher, Peter Francis, Jr.

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See Also: Agate Cambay


Babghoria Agate Pendant.
Robert K. Liu
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Bail

A loop, usually of metal, that is attached to a bead or pendant for the purpose of suspending it from a necklace, cord or chain. Pinch bails feature two prongs that are squeezed together through the perforation in the pendant. Bails can also be made with wire-wrapping techniques or with loops of seed beads, fiber cord or leather.

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Three silver pinch bails with granulated decoration.
Cas Webber
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Bakelite

Named for its inventor, Belgian-born American chemist Leo H. Baekeland (1863-1944), Bakelite was the first thermosetting plastic, introduced in 1909. This trademarked material was initially employed primarily for electrical equipment but was also used for early amber imitations and other beads. Bakelite jewelry has become collectible.

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See Also: African Amber

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Bali Beads

Silverworking is an ancient tradition on the fabled island of Bali, Indonesia. There, metalsmiths trace the origin of their craft to the gods and to Bali’s fiery volcanoes. Over countless generations, families of artisans have passed down and perfected techniques of granulation and filigree to make exquisite beads and ornaments, not only of silver but also of vermeil and gold.

For granulation, Balinese beadmakers heat short snippets of fine hand-drawn silver wire over a bed of charcoal to form tiny balls of various sizes. Then, they create elaborate patterns by positioning these granules, one by one, on a silver bead and bonding them to the surface almost imperceptibly by using only flux and bean paste, instead of solder. Filigree work calls for equal skill and artistry, as Balinese craftspeople deftly manipulate straight or twisted silver wire to construct intricate beads as well as to decorate them.

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See Also: Filigree Granulation


Granulated silver beads, Bali, Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu

Silver and vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu

Vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu
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Ball Chain

Ball chain consists of a series of tiny balls connected by a short, thin, straight wire. You may also hear this referred to as “plumber’s chain.” This chain resists kinking because the balls can swivel on the wires that connect them. The balls are not necessarily round; they may also be elliptical, faceted, or a series of different shapes. The balls that make up the chain may be of any diameter. Other information about the chain, such as number of balls per foot or tensile strength, can be important, depending on how you intend to use the chain.

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Bamboo

Sections of smaller species of bamboo are cut into sections to form beads. Such beads are found in Peru, among other places. Pieces of bamboo also served as mandrels for making early wound beads in Canton, China, and wider pieces were used for drilling with abrasives according to Peter Francis, Jr.

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Ban Chiang

Beads played an important role in ancient Thai cultures. One site that has produced a variety of beads in clay, stone, and glass is Ban Chiang in northern Thailand. Glass beads found in association with pottery and iron tools at Ban Chiang have been dated to about 300 BC. India and Thailand were closely associated in ancient times and it is unclear whether some of the glass and stone beads were imported from India, made in Thailand by Indian craftsmen, or were of indigenous Thai manufacture.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s blue cylindrical and truncated biconical ancient glass beads appeared briefly on the market as “Ban Chiang beads.” Within a few years they disappeared and were replaced by replicas produced in Indonesia by contemporary beadmakers. Dealers, however, do not always make a clear distinction between the old and the new.

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Ancient glass beads from Thailand.
Robert K. Liu
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Banded Agate

Agate is a banded variety of chalcedony, so by definition all agate is banded. Depending on how a stone is cut, however, this characteristic may not be evident in small samples and beads. Thus “banded” is often used to describe specimens of agate (or onyx or opal) that exhibit layering. The term is also used to differentiate true agate from moss agate, a variety of chalcedony marked not by banding, but by branchlike inclusions.

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See Also: Agate Blue Lace Agate Chalcedony Moss Agate Onyx Opal


Banded agate beads.
Robert K. Liu

Slab pendants of red banded agate.
Cas Webber

Black and white banded agate beads.
Cas Webber
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Banten

Banten (formerly Bantam) is port town in Java, Indonesia, where the Chinese made glass beads to trade with Borneo circa 1600.

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Baoulé Brass

The Baoulé people of Ivory Coast in West Africa are members of the Akan group that also includes the Ashanti. Like the Ashanti, the Baoulé have used the lost-wax, or cire-perdue, casting method for centuries. Their first ornaments were probably made of locally mined gold. Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, was first brought across the Sahara by Arab camel caravans and later to West African ports by European sailing ships. Today beads and ornaments are still made by this ancient method in Ghana and the Ivory Coast—in gold for chiefs and other important persons, and in brass (often erroneously called bronze) for more humble bead-lovers in Africa and abroad. To make a bead or pendant, the craftsman first makes a model from beeswax, usually forming it from thin wax threads. Besides spherical beads and bicones, popular designs include disks, rectangles, and other geometric shapes, as well as human masks and animal motifs. The beadmaker coats the model with a slurry of fine clay and charcoal and then envelops it in coarser clay. When making small beads, he may encase several models in this thick clay mold. When the mold is heated, the melted wax drains out through openings left for this purpose (sprues), and molten brass is poured into the resulting cavity. After it cools, the mold is broken to free the casting, rough spots are filed down, and the ornament is polished with fine sand and lemon juice, or a grinding wheel if the maker can afford it. Brass beads may be given a gold wash for a more brilliant finish, or polished with black wax for an antique look. Unlike other types of casting, the lost-wax method insures that every bead is a unique original because once the mold is broken open it can’t be reused.

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See Also: Ashanti Gold


Gold plated brass bead
Robert K. Liu
Freshwater Pearls Beads, Pearl Jewelry, baltimore, maryland, virginia, va, md, dc
Contemporary Baoule brass beads.
Cas Webber

Contemporary Baoule brass beads that have been ground smooth on a polishing wheel.
Cas Webber
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Bapterosses Beads

Bapterosses beads are pressed glass-and-ceramic trade beads. They are named after a French entrepreneur, who improved on the Prosser method for making buttons, which was invented in England in 1840. Jean-Félix Bapterosses used milk to moisten the powdered ingredients in order to make a more plastic paste that could be molded into more complex shapes. He also developed interchangeable dies and machinery to mass produce buttons.

Then, in the early 1860s he began making beads, which soon became so popular, that he had to build a dairy herd to supply the 500 liters of milk he needed daily to keep up his factory’s production. Before the end of the century, however, these French beads faced stiff competition from Bohemia and Germany.

Bapterosses beads tend to be more finely made than other beads made by the Prosser method. The characteristic equatorial ridge and pitted end are less perceptible. Most notably, French “snake” beads are more sharply defined and mesh more tightly than the more rounded Czech version.

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See Also: Bohemian Pressed Glass Pressed Glass Beads Prosser Beads Snake Beads

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Baroque

“A highly curved bead shape, otherwise defying classification,” according to bead researcher Peter Francis, Jr. Today the term is most often applied to irregularly-shaped freshwater pearls.

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Barrel Beads

Barrel beads are shaped like old oak barrels or kegs. They are basically cylindrical with flat ends, but they taper slightly toward each end, which gives them a curved, convex profile. It is difficult to construct this shape in metal, and barrel beads are seldom seen in that material. One finds barrel-shaped gemstone beads more often, as well as some of drawn glass, especially older examples, but they require a considerable amount of hand-grinding. Most frequently, barrel beads are made of molded glass or soft substances, like wood, using materials and techniques that make shaping the curved profile and flat ends relatively easy.

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Carnelian barrel-shaped beads.

Cas Webber
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Barrel Clasps

Barrel clasps may be cylindrical with a uniform diameter, or they may have a slightly larger equator and tapered ends. They are composed of two parts that screw together. Although some high-quality barrel clasps exist, many are inexpensive and poorly made, with a tendency to come unscrewed due to friction against the neck or clothing. The type of clasp that attaches to cording with the knot hidden inside the barrel has additional drawbacks. There will always be slack in the cord equal to or greater than the distance between where the knot is pulled into the open clasp and where it comes to rest against the exit hole in the end of the clasp. Slack in the cord results in extra friction, as the beads slide back and forth on the cord and as the cord chafes against the clasp, which will cause cord failure sooner rather than later.

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Base Metal

A term that refers collectively to metals that are not classified as precious (silver, gold, etc.) Base metals used in beads include copper and alloys such as brass and various kinds of white metal. Base metals are used in forging and casting beads and pendants and can be plated with silver or gold tone finishes. They provide an inexpensive alternative for bead makers and consumers. More information to come...

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See Also: Bell Metal Metal Beads Copper Beads Brass White Metal


Brass, copper, and white metal beads from Africa.
Cas Webber

Large (approx. 25 mm) white metal bicones from Mali in Africa.
Cas Webber

Tiny (approx. 1-2mm) copper beads from east Africa.
Cas Webber
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Batik Bone Beads

These beads, decorated with bold designs, represent the continuation of a long tradition of modifying beads that started with etched carnelian and dZi beads, led to pumtek beads, and finally bone beads. The ones usually identified as batik bone beads come from Kenya and are a relatively recent development. They are produced in oblate (flattened round), tubular, coin, and tab shapes.

Produced in a multitude of patterns including dots, stripes, and chevrons, these beads are cut from long bones of cows or other large animals, shaped, polished and sometimes the large space left by the marrow is plugged with wood to create a smaller perforation. The areas of the design that are to remain white are coated with a resist material such as wax. When the beads are immersed in the dark brown or black dye it absorbs into the porous surface of the bead, except where the resist has been applied. After the resist is removed the beads are washed, dried and strung for export.

India produces a series of smaller, lighter brown batik bone beads that more closely resemble Pumtek beads of Southeast Asia. Recently, China, where nearly every bead ever invented has been copied, began exporting excellent quality batik bone beads with very smooth surfaces and popular spiral, geometric and figurative designs. The Chinese bone bead shapes include round, rondel, coin and tabular shapes.

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See Also: dZi Beads Pumtek Beads


Large East African batik bone bead.
Robert K. Liu

African and Indian batik bone beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Bauxite Beads

For generations, West Africans have mined bauxite to make beads, which the Krobo people of Ghana call abo. Formed from leached and weathered volcanic soils, bauxite is a claylike aggregate composed primarily of aluminum oxides. The presence of iron oxides gives it a reddish coloration.

Bauxite is soft and easy to work. Krobo villagers shape it mainly into cylinders of varying length and diameter, which they perforate with a bow-drill. Ranging from rosy beige to rusty brown, bauxite beads are opaque and, when new, may appear dull or dusty. But with age, wear and contact with oils, they darken and acquire a warm luster. When damp, they smell of fresh earth.

Ghanaians wear beads in religious rites as well as for adornment. At funerals, beads traditionally adorn both the corpse and the mourners, who express their grief and bewail their own fate, chanting “We’re going to chew abo”—or “We’re all going to bite the dust!”

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See Also: Abo Adjagba Beads Akoso Beads Bodom Beads Krobo Beads


Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana. Bauxite is aluminum ore.
Cas Webber
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Beach Glass

This term refers to genuine shards of broken bottles that have been tumbled smooth on sandy beaches, but is also applied to scrap from stained glass studios that has been tumbled with abrasives and/or acid etched. When the term is applied to beads it is a misnomer because the matte finish or frosted effect is achieved with acid etching.

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Bead Board

Bead boards help in the design process. You can determine pattern and length before you start stringing necklaces or bracelets. The most versatile type of bead board consists of a plastic rectangle with a felt-like surface, which provides friction so the beads won’t roll away from where you place them.

Around the perimeter of the board, there are one or more grooves in which you can lay out the beads. These grooves are marked along the edge in inches. By placing a series of beads in the desired pattern in the outermost groove, you can measure how long a section will be. You can then determine how many times you will need to repeat the pattern in order to reach the desired length.

There are usually several compartments in the center or corners of the board to hold your beads or other supplies as you work.

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Bead borad for designing and measuring beading patterns before stringing.
Cas Webber
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Bead Caps

These decorative beads can range in diameter from about 4mm to about 15mm and are designed to enhance the appearance of plain round beads by framing them decoratively. Some loose bead caps are only slightly domed, while others resemble halves of spheres. Although plain bead caps exist, most handmade bead caps come from India and Bali and are decorated with applied wire designs, granulation, or a combination. Machine stamped mass-produced bead caps are much lighter in weight and have a more filigree-like style or openwork look. Made of base metal, they are plated in gold, silver, copper, black and vintage brass finishes.

Sometimes gold or silver caps are permanently applied to the ends of valuable ancient stone beads such as etched carnelians, dZi and related banded agates to conceal damage or reinforce fragile beads. This style has been copied in some contemporary silver-capped bead styles from Nepal. The new beads most frequently capped in this way include carnelian, amber, turquoise, and some naturally banded agates or imitation dZi.

When a bead cap becomes more bell-shaped or conical, it’s called a cone. The purpose also changes from decorative to functional—to hide knots that connect a multi-strand necklace to a clasp.

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See Also: Cones


Balinese sterling silver bead caps, assorted sizes.
Robert K. Liu

Copper bead caps.
Cas Webber
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Bead Chain

A bead chain consists of sections of chain that are interspersed with beads. You can construct one by threading a piece of wire through a bead, making a loop on either end of the bead, and then attaching a section of chain. Add sections of uniform or varied length, repeat until you reach the desired total length of the bead chain.

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Bead Loom

Bead looms are used to weave seed beads together to create flat beaded jewelry or other types of beadwork. Looms range from simple cardboard ones you can build yourself to more intricate wooden ones that are constructed very precisely. With either type, thread is strung on the loom in straight lines, creating the warp threads, which form the base of the project. A separate length of thread, which will serve as the weft thread, is then threaded through a needle and tied to one of the outside warp threads. Beads are added to this weft thread and woven onto the warp threads in the desired pattern. Looms are typically used for Native American style beading.

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Wooden beading loom.
Cas Webber
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Bead Reamer

A bead reamer comes in handy when the hole in a bead is too small or is not straight, or when the two ends of a perforation in a hand-drilled bead do not quite meet. This simple tool quickly solves those problems. The best-quality bead reamers come with diamond tips, which can smooth rough edges or enlarge perforations quickly and efficiently. Reamers that have tips with different shapes can be very useful for different types of jobs.

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A set of bead reamers for enlarging of smoothing holes in beads.
Cas Webber
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Bead Release

A paste, or powder that, mixed with water, forms a thick, fireproof slurry, used to coat beadmaking rods—called mandrels—to prevent the molten glass from sticking to them. The clay-based bead release allows easy removal of the beads from the mandrel after they have cooled. Most contemporary American and Japanese beadmakers scrupulously clean the bead release from their beads but Indian wound beads often come to market covered with powdery white bead release residue. Running such beads through the dishwasher in a mesh bag or metal basket can help remove this.

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Bead Sizes

Information to come...

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Bead Stopper™

Prevents the frustration of having beads that you have carefully strung fall off accidentally and roll all over the place. These stoppers are a stainless steel spring with an extended coil on each end. When these extensions are squeezed together, the spring opens so your stringing cord can easily be placed between the coils. When the extensions are released, the spring then closes, so the cord is gripped tightly between the coils and the beads cannot slip off.

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Bead stoppers- used to keep beads from falling off the strand while necklace is a work in progress.
Cas Webber
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Bead Tip

A finding designed to conceal the knots at the ends of necklaces and made a secure connection between the cord and the clasp. See our How To section for explanation and diagrams of how to use bead tips.

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Bead tips used for securing cord to clasps.
Cas Webber
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Bead Tip Cement

Bead tip cement is used to bond the knots inside bead tips or to fix any other knots that need to be secured. G-S Hypo Cement is the preferred brand of bead tip cement. It comes with a precision applicator to place the adhesive exactly where it is needed inside a small bead tip. It will not bond to your fingers and is considered a medium-weight cement. It sets in about 10 minutes and dries clear.

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Bead tip cement used for securing knots in bead tips.
Cas Webber
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Bead Weaving

This technique involves stringing the warp threads onto a loom then threading beads onto the weft threads. This process is used for making belts, hatbands, some amulet purses, straps of various kinds and two-dimensional bead art.

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See Also: Bead Loom

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Bead-Nabber™

The LoRan Bead-Nabber™ picks up seed beads with a touch and holds them for easy threading. It eliminates having to skewer beads and thus protects fingers from sharp needle points. Simply slip the adjustable Bead-Nabber onto your index finger and press lightly on the seed beads to be strung. The Velcro-like pad picks the bead up and holds them.

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Beadalon® Beading Wire

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See: Cable Wire


Spool of Beadalon brand cable wire for bead stringing.
Cas Webber
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Beaded Beads

A beaded bead may consist entirely of small beads stitched together to create one larger bead. Other types of beaded beads have a core, usually made of lightweight and inexpensive wood, that is covered by seed beads, usually using peyote stitch. Because seed beads come in a near-endless array of colors, the results can be visually stunning, as well as texturally interesting. Another advantage is that even large beaded beads don’t weigh much.

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Example of beaded bead: seed beads over a wooden core bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Beading Needle

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See: Needles


A selection of beading needles.
Cas Webber
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Beads

A perforated object designed to be strung and worn for personal adornment or for social identification; used in counting as in an abacus or on a prayer strand; or used as a talisman, amulet, charm or seal. The word bead comes from the early Anglo-Saxon term “biddan” which means “to pray” and relates to rosary beads. As a verb, to bead, refers to stringing beads and engaging in activities such as beadweaving, and/or covering objects with beads by any means

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Beadwork

Any work involving embellishment with seed beads including bead embroidery; weaving beads into fabric on a loom; off-loom beadweaving; netting or similar techniques, often applied to various functional and decorative objects. Popular in ancient Egypt, this art form has spread around the world.

More information to come...

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See Also: Peyote Stitch

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Beck, Horace C.

Horace C. Beck (1873-1941), the “father of bead research” left the family optical business at age 51 to study beads. Known affectionately as “the bead man,” he used a photo-microscope to study beads from Zimbabwe to Egypt and Peru to Sarawak for the leading archeologists of the time. His collection is now housed in the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, England. He presented his work Classification and Nomenclature of Beads and Pendants as a scientific paper in 1926. George Shumway of York, Pennsylvania published it as a book in 1973. It was eagerly embraced by bead collectors and budding researchers who had very little printed material to rely on in those days. Although new research has updated some of his information especially regarding bead dates, “Beck” remains a basic reference for anyone seriously interested in beads

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Beeswax

This material, produced by honeybees, has long served as a thread conditioner that waterproofs the cord, helps keep it from tangling and fraying, and helps it slide more smoothly through beads.

Beeswax is also used by the Huichol Indians of Mexico to cover the surface of gourds, wood-carvings, and other surfaces for the purpose of securing a decorative pattern of seed beads that they apply by carefully pressing the beads into the wax.

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Beeswax used for conditioning cords especially for seed bead work.
Cas Webber
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Bell Metal

A silver substitute called bell metal consists of 78 to 80% copper combined with tin. The term was used in Nepal, Tibet and India, but today has been replaced by the generic term white metal which emcompasses a variety of alloys. Cost or scarcity of sterling silver forces many silversmiths and consumers in developing countries to turn to silver substitutes, such as bell metal or white metal. Often, but not always, the workmanship is also inferior. The high copper content of bell metal sometimes give the metal a telltale yellow cast.

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See Also: Base Metal, White Metal

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Bell-Shaped Beads

Information to come...

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Bell-shaped beads from southeast Asia.
Robert K. Liu
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Benares, India

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See: Varanasi, India

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Bench Block

A flat rectangular slab of polished steel, about 5 or 6 inches long, which is used as an alternative to an anvil for hammering. Since if offers a larger and flatter surface than a small jewelry anvil does, many people prefer it when working with wire and sheet metal for jewelry components. It is useful for flattening wire shapes with a chasing hammer.

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See Also: Chasing Hammer

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Bench Vise

A device with a screw mechanism that holds a piece firmly while you work on it. A vise usually has one fixed jaw and another, parallel jaw that you can move toward or away from the fixed jaw by turning the screw, thus clamping onto or releasing the piece. A vise can serve as a helpful extra hand when you are working with certain jewelry components.

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Bicone Beads

A popular bead shape, pointed at both ends and wider in the middle as if two cones have been fused.

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Classic bicone shaped metal bead.
Cas Webber
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Biconical Perforation

The hour-glass shaped perforation resulting from drilling a bead from both ends with a tapered drill or with a wood bit and abrasives. It’s generally an indicator that the bead is very old.

The spot where the holes coming from each end meet can have sharp edges that will cut any fiber cord. Indian gemstones are typically drilled from both ends, though these days not with tapered drill bits. Cable wire stringing materials are the only ones that can stand up to the sharp edges inside such beads.

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See Also: Cable Wire Perforation

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Bida

A city in Nigeria where glass beads were made in the 20th century, and possibly earlier, by heating shards of glass over a flame so the melted glass dripped onto a mandrel. Wound beads from Bida are irregularly shaped and colored by the recycled bottle glass they were made of: usually amber from beer bottles and green from wine bottles. Bida is also the name given to the glass beads made in this town.

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Big-Eye Needle

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See: Needles


Big eye needle. The eye of this needle extends almost its full length.
Cas Webber
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Bird Beads

Dark blue glass beads about 10-15mm in diameter with a bird on one side and a sunburst design on the other have been found at several sites in Indonesia in association with Jatim beads. Possible dates for these beads range from about 300-900 AD. Clearly an important bead, with possible connections to ancient India, these beads were replicated by Indo-Pacific beadmakers in ancient times, and in even greater quantities, by contemporary glass beadmakers in Java, Indonesia.

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Ancient bird bead flanked by two Indonesian replicas from the 1980s.


Robert K. Liu

Replica bird beads from Indonesia.
Cas Webber
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Birthstone Beads

Various cultures and organizations, including the National Association of Jewelers and the American Gem Trade Association, have adopted certain stones for each month or zodiac sign. These stones are often used when making gifts for individuals born in these months. Another tradition involves making bracelets for mothers that incorporate the birthstones of her children. To view and print lists of these stones see our Facts and Facets section.

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Biwa Pearls

Japanese freshwater pearls named after Lake Biwa where they were grown. The industry has since faded and China now produces most of the world’s supply of freshwater pearls.

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Black Onyx

Black Onyx is a form of chalcedony and a member of the quartz family. With a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale it maintains relatively sharp facets. Onyx is known as a helpful tool for students because it boost memory and attention to detail. It also enhances endurance and persistence and can help build up physical strength and vitality. For additional metaphysical qualities of Black Onyx see The Book of Stones by R. Simmons and N. Ahsian.

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Black onyx beads.
Cas Webber

Black onyx faceted slab beads.
Cas Webber
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Black Stone

A common name for black jasper or other black stones that are not as hard or shiny as black onyx.

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Blank

Info to come...

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See: Stamping

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Block

This term is used for synthetic stone, which may include pulverized stone, usually with coloring agents added, mixed with epoxy resin. The result is sold in blocks that can resemble bricks. Not prone to shattering when it’s shaped or drilled, this material is then cut and shaped into beads, especially heishi, and southwest style fetishes. The most frequently used block colors include turquoise, lapis blue, malachite green, azurite (a mix of the blue lapis color and the green malachite color) jet black, and “pipestone” brown.

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See Also: Fetishes—Native American Turquoise Turquoise—Dyed Turquoise—Reconstituted Turquoise—Stabilized


Block fetish beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Bloodstone

Bloodstone is a variety of chalcedony found in India, China, Brazil, Australia and the USA. It is generally medium to dark green with red spots. In the Middle Ages in Europe, these spots were believed to be the blood of Christ and many magical properties were attributed to these stones. Today Bloodstone is believed to be a purifying agent, helpful in dispelling negative energies, grounding, healing and acceptance of things that can’t be changed. More information to come...

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Bloodstone beads in hairpipe shape.
Cas Webber
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Blown Glass Beads

One of the wonders of glass is that it can be shaped and formed in so many different ways. Wherever and whenever they were made blown glass beads result when the beadmaker blows a bubble of air into a molten “gather” or blob of glass. If an assistant attaches a metal punte to one end of this gather and runs in one direction, while the glass blower takes off in the other direction, the resulting hollow tube can be stretched to many yards in length before it solidifies.

Sections cut from such a tube are sometime called blown glass beads, but more often they are referred to as drawn beads or furnace glass beads, because unlike lampworked beads they require a furnace to melt the larger quantities of glass.

Lampworkers make several other types of blown glass beads. Most begin with glass tubing, which is heated and blown into hollow balls and ovals. Tubing can be decorated before or after it’s blown and shaped. Venice has a long history of making blown glass beads, some decorated with stripes, others with gold leaf. Contemporary American glass beadmakers have explored these techniques and the Chinese have recently jumped on the bandwagon with copies of Venetian striped blown glass.

Older examples of Chinese blown glass include the inside painted beads where designs are painted onto the inside of round hollow beads a feat that recalls the effort of assembling models of sailing ships inside of bottles. The round blown glass beads used for this purpose have relatively thick walls and ground ends so might have been made by the third method denoted by the term blown glass: blowing glass into a mold.

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See Also: Chinese Glass Beads Inside Painted Beads


Antique Venetian blown glass bead.
Robert K. Liu

Venetian blown glass beads, multicolors.
Robert K. Liu

Chinese blown beads painted inside.
Robert K. Liu
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Blowpipe

The long metal tube used to make blown glass tubing and beads. The earliest examples of this technology, which remains largely unchanged, have been found around the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and date to the middle of the first century BC.

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Blue Goldstone

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See: Goldstone

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Blue Lace Agate

The wispy layers of milky white to pale gray-blue that mark this variety of chalcedony, or banded agate, inspire its descriptive trade name, blue lace agate. While mineral impurities in agate can produce a wide variety of colors including blue, the bulk of stones from Brazil, southern Africa, and South Asia—the principal sources of agate—tend to range from dull white to gray in color. The beautiful opaque- to translucent hues of blue lace agate are often not natural. The softly lustrous stones have usually been color enhanced, an ancient lapidary practice that dates to Roman times and earlier.

The metaphysical powers attributed to blue lace agate correspond to its physical properties. Its subtle and serene shades of blue are soothing, stabilizing, strengthening. Cool and calm, blue lace agate, “the stone of the diplomat,” promotes those same qualities in thought and expression.

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See Also: Agate Banded Agate Chalcedony


Blue lace agate beads.
Cas Webber
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Blue Topaz

Topaz occurs in igneous rocks including granites and lavas. Most of the material on the market today comes from Brazil, the US, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Australia, Tasmania, Pakistan, and several regions of the former USSR. Topaz comes in a range of colors. Golden yellow, known as Imperial Topaz, and rare pink are the most coveted, followed by blue, green, and clear varieties. The name topaz is believed to come from the Sanskrit word tapas, meaning a purifying fire. According to Robert Simmons, blue topaz improves mental processing, verbal skills, concentration, and attention span. It activates the throat chakra, helping with the ability to articulate one’s ideas, insights, emotions, and needs. Naisha Ahsian adds that blue topaz helps calm the mind for meditation and can alleviate speech impediments, fear of public speaking, and hyperactive thyroid. Source: Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian, The Book of Stones, 2007.

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Bodhi Seeds

Often used to make malas (Buddhist or Hindu prayer strands), bodhi seeds come from the bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa or sacred fig). According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was meditating under a bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment. Dark brown bodhi seeds are strung into malas of 108 beads, which are used to count repetitions of mantras while meditating. Each circuit of the mala counts for only 100 repetitions with the understanding that the remaining eight might not have had our full attention.

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Bodom Beads

Africa is almost unique among the glassworking countries of the world. There, glass beads and ornaments were and are made primarily with powder glass techniques (practiced to a minor extent in post-contact North America also, and possibly in Island S.E. Asia). Mauritanian women produced the most beautiful powder glass beads, called Kiffa beads (see separate entry) while West Africa produced the famous bodom and akoso. While most believe the Krobo of Ghana were the originators of bodom and related powder glass beads, others believe such beads were of Ashanti origin and possibly derived from northwest Africa. Bodom beads are very large. They have a dark grey or black glass core made by powder glass technology; however, the smooth, thin outer layer of lemon yellow glass that covers the core and their sparse decorations suggest hot-working over the kiln fired core. Some may have incorporated pre-formed glass decorations. Most commonly, the surface decorations consist of varioius cruciform designs, stripes, and eyes. Unlike older beads, contemporary examples are made using powder glass techniques exclusively and are formed in molds in a kiln or furnace, with no hot-working. These newer beads have a granular surface.

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See Also: Adjagba Beads Akoso Beads Kiffa Beads Krobo Beads Powder Glass Beads


Bodom bead.
Robert K. Liu

Bodom beads, antique and contemporary; one of each type is broken to show their cores. The antique, broken bead to the left is unusual in that there is no black in its core.
Robert K. Liu
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Bohemian Glass

The products of the glass industries of Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. Water for power, abundant forests for fuel, and the basic raw materials for glass were available near Jablonec, the center for this glass production since the early 18th century. Seed beads and pressed glass beads or “druks” were the specialties of this region, but recently some younger beadmakers have branched out into lampworked glass. This area also produces cut glass crystals similar to the Swarovski crystals of Austria.

Today, beads marketed as Bohemian vintage glass could be from the former Czechoslovakia, from closely related producers in southern Germany, or the products of the modern Czech bead industry, which is reviving old colors and molds in response to consumer demand.

The Czech Republic continues to supply tons of seed beads to bead-loving nations worldwide especially the United States, Brazil (for Carnival costumes); South Africa, and Indonesia.

More information to come...

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Bohemian Pressed Glass

The products of the Bohemian glass industry in the Czech Republic that specializes in molded beads. Originally developed as a method of mass-producing round beads, the pressed glass industry grew to focus on making glass replicas of popular stone, shell, and other beads encountered during the ages of exploration and colonization. Intrepid agents were dispatched to Africa and the Middle East to bring back samples of beads valued locally to be replicated. The replicas produced in Bohemia became an important part of the trade goods carried by explorers, entrepreneurs, and representatives of the colonial powers in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

In the early 20th century Bohemian glass factories and workshops produced huge quantities of glass imitations of ancient Egyptian faience beads and amulets to feed the craze for all things Egyptian after King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922. Smaller quantities of pressed glass likenesses of the Buddha found their way to Asia. After the fall of communism in the Czech Republic, the many different factories and workshops that had operated under one or two large exporting firms were allowed to export directly. This resulted in greater diversity among their products and better response to feedback from markets. Vintage glass colors and some long-unused molds were put back in production as a result. Today, the Czech Republic is suffering, along with most other glass beadmaking centers, due to the flood of inexpensive Chinese glass beads into world markets.

More information to come...

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See Also: Pressed Glass Beads


Assorted shapes and colors of vintage Bohemian pressed glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Bone Beads

Some of the earliest beads recorded include bone, teeth, and ivory beads. These materials are relatively soft and some, like fish and snake vertebrae had natural perforations. Stone, copper, and bronze tools could be used to carve and decorate bone beads.

Most modern bone beads come from cattle or water buffaloes, although fish and snake vertebrae have been popular as beads in West Africa. Long, smooth, cylindrical bone beads—called hairpipes—were used by Native Americans of the Great Plains to create breastplates that served as armor. Today they are seen mostly in dance regalia and used to make bracelets and chokers for adornment. In the Himalayan region where Buddhism and Hinduism stress the endless cycle of death and rebirth, some prayer strands were made of human skull bones, sometimes inlaid with coral or turquoise.

Batik bone beads are another distinct category of beads currently being made in Kenya, India and China. Carved bone and ivory beads have a long tradition in China, India and many other parts of the world.

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See Also: Batik Bone Beads


African fish vertebrae beads.
Robert K. Liu

Assorted African and Asian bone beads.
Cas Webber

Raw Kenyan bone beads before they have been batiked.
Cas Webber
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Borosilicate Glass

Originally developed for scientific uses and food applications, this glass tolerates temperature changes better than the soft glass used by most contemporary beadmakers. Borosilicate glass comes in fewer and more muted colors than other types of glass, but those who use it, including Tom Boylan and Don Schneider achieve spectacular results.

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See Also: Boylan, Tom Schneider, Don

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Botswana Agate

Botswana agate is a variety of orbicular, or eye, agate. Its fine concentric bands trace a circular, or oval, pattern around a central point, suggesting an eye. It occurs in subtle natural shades of white, tan, gray, and brown. Its coloring can be warmed, however, by soaking the stone in a solution of iron nitrate and/or heating it. This age-old technique creates lovely layers of pale apricot, salmon pink, rosy beige, and red mahogany.

Beads of Botswana agate are often cut in tabular shapes to show off its beautiful banding. Tradition holds that an eye agate functions as an amulet, providing protection from the evil eye and the misfortunes it can bring. In the realm of mineral powers, eye agate is thought to help center your energy, focus concentration, enhance meditation, and foster a feeling of the divine within.

Botswana agate takes its name from the landlocked country in southern Africa that is home to the Bushmen, or San people, and the vast Kalahari Desert that covers 70% of the country. Agate production in Botswana has declined, however, since the early 1980’s, when termites searching for water pushed diamond grains to the surface of the Kalahari, and Botswana concentrated its mining efforts on exploiting its rich diamond deposits. Today Botswana has become the world’s top producer of gem-quality diamonds and has ceded its role as a leading source of Botswana agate to China and India.

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See Also: Agate Orbicular Agate


Botswana agate beads.
Cas Webber
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Bottle Green

The natural color of glass due to the presence of iron in the basic materials glass is made of. Various substances, including antimony, manganese, and selenium, have been added to glass at various times over the centuries to remove this green color to create clear glass.

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Box Clasp

A type of clasp for securing a necklace or bracelet that consists of a box and a spring metal tongue. The spring is compressed to inster the tongue into the box, when the pressure is released the spring action of the metal holds the tongue in place. To open the clasp, pressure is again applied so the tongue can be removed. The security of these clasps varies greatly and depends on the quality of the metal used and the design.

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Filigree style box clasps.
Cas Webber
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Boxwood

A dense and durable wood well-suited for carving beads, pendants and especially ojime.

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See Also: Ojime Netsuke


Example of boxwood ojime.
Cas Webber
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Boylan, Tom

Northern California artist Tom Boylan was born and raised in New York. After serving in Korea he moved to southern California to work briefly in insurance in Los Angeles, but he soon left the city to live in the mountains of southern California where he began experimenting with blowing glass. A spiritual seeker, astrologer, gardener, writer, and artist in other media, Tom moved north to Mendocino where he lives in idyllic seclusion, but with access to local artistic and spiritual communities.

Using mostly borosilicate glass, the entirely self-taught artist developed distinctive techniques to achieve stunning effects. Always inspired by nature, Boylan continues to experiment with form and color in his home studio.

Tom’s vibrant and luminous beads enjoy wide popularity among both men and women, but due to his many other interests they are often in short supply. His work has appeared in Ornament magazine, Bead and Button, and the catalogs of several exhibits by the Society of Contemporary Glass Beadmakers.

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Three examples of classic Tom Boylan beads from the 1990s.
Robert K. Liu

Classic red eye bead and two others by Tom Boylan.
Robert K. Liu
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Bracelet Mandrel

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See: Mandrel

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Branch Coral

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See: Coral


Natural red coral branches.

Cas Webber
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Brass

An alloy of copper and zinc invented by the Romans. Because brass is relatively hard to work and does not command high prices, it is not often used as a bead material in the West today. However, brass beads have a long tradition in Africa and Asia, and great quantities have been produced in Ghana, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, and, to a lesser extent, in Ehtiopia, India, and Nepal.

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Very large brass bead from India.
Robert K. Liu

Brass beads from Ghana that have been polished smooth on a grinding wheel.
Cas Webber

Chinese brass buttons that have been converted into beads.
Cas Webber
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Brick Stitch

An off-loom beadweaving stitch also called Cheyenne stitch, Comanche stitch or Apache weave, that is often used for making earrings.

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Briolette

A teardrop to triangular shaped bead that may be either fully three dimensional (drop) or flattened (tabiz style). Usually, but not always faceted, these beads are drilled through the apex and often function as miniature pendants in necklaces and earrings.

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Tabiz style briolette.
Cas Webber

Cubic Zirconia briolettes.
Cas Webber

Drop style briolette in cut glass crystal.
Cas Webber
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Bronze

An alloy of copper and tin that sometimes includes other metals. It was the first successful alloy and launched the Bronze Age where stronger bronze tools replaced stone and copper implements leading to many technological and cultural developments. Bronze is widely used in casting statues, and sometimes beads. Bronze also refers to the dark gold color of bronze. Bronze glass beads have been coated with metal oxides to create a durable dark gold finish.

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Bugle Beads

Small drawn glass beads belonging to the seed bead family. They are generally about 1.5 to 2mm in diameter and vary in length according to their size classification. Size 2 bugle beads measure about 4mm in length, while size 5 bugles measure about 11mm. Plain and twisted bugle beads are made in the Czech Republic in lengths up to 30mm. Bugle beads may be composed of translucent or opaque glass with a shiny, matte or AB finish, but the most popular styles are silver-lined. Japanese bugle beads tend to be more precisely shaped than Czech bugle beads and come in a greater array of shiny and matted colors. Bugle beads, especially the Czech ones tend to have sharp ends so the choice of cord you use is important. For some applications a fiber cord is required, but whenever possible very fine (0.010" or 0.012" diameter) cable wire will be more durable.

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Czech glass size 5 bugle beads.
Cas Webber
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Bullion

Also called French bullion or French wire, this product consists of ultra-thin wire wound like spring. Designed to protect cord from wear where it connects to the clasp, bullion is used primarily in traditionally strung necklaces knotted on silk. Most straight stringing today uses cable wire that is much more resistant to fraying than fiber cords. Wire protectors are an alternative to bullion if function is more important than the traditional appearance of bullion.

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Bullion or French wire used to protect silk cord where it meets the metal clasp.
Cas Webber
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Bundled Cane Mosaic

Mosaic cane patterns built up of small monochrome glass canes or rods fused together, then sliced and used as murini to decorate classic Venetian mosaic trade beads.

More information to come...

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Buri Beads

These beads are made from the fruit of the buri palm (genus Corypha), which is native to the Philippines and other South and Southeast Asian countries. The material in its natural state is a creamy, semi-translucent off-white color, similar to the material found in tagua nuts, or vegetable ivory. It takes dye quite well and is usually carved into round or irregular beads, which are dyed a variety of colors. The colors may fade over time, however, especially with exposure to sunlight.

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See Also: Tagua Nut

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Burmese Amber

Burmese amber (burmite, a succinite type of amber) is relatively rare and has been mainly exported to China where it has been used since the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.). Examples such as the necklace shown below reached the west during the 1990s via bead traders such as Art Expo, who specialized in high quality ethnographic bead art from the Indian sub-continent. The necklace shown is a classic example of a style favored by the women of the Mizo tribe who live in the hills near the Burmese border. The necklace, known as "thihna" or "puan chei mala" typically consists of alternating long and short amber beads, sometimes interspersed with relatively thick aluminum disc spacers. Whereas westerners are more accustomed to light yellow amber, the Mizos appreciate Burmese amber’s reddish to dark brown color and mottled appearance. Amber is the hardened resin of coniferous trees that grew millions of years ago. Though it is often called "fossil resin", the substance of the material has not been replaced by minerals as it has in fossil bones or shells. Amber remains organic. Amber has been valued highly around the world as evidenced by the long and dangerous trade routes that brough Baltic Amber from northern Europe to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and even to India and China. Amber’s popularity derives from its beauty, light weight, and the many prophylactic properties attributed to it. In India and the Himalayas it is used medicinally, as incense for purification, for Buddhist and Muslim prayer strands, and in jewelry.

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See Also: African Amber Amber


Burmese amber showing the characteristic shapes and color of these beads. Longest beads about 8 cm long (3 inches).
Robert K. Liu
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C-Thru®

C-thru® is a translucent, braided, 100% nylon monofilament cord for stringing beads. The braiding makes this cord durable and resistant to fraying or stretching. It is easily knotted and can be used with bead tips for a clean finish. This cord usually requires a needle for easy stringing because the ends of the braided cord can separate. C-Thru Medium has a diameter of .027 inch and a 17-pound test strength.

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Cable Chain

Cable chain is made up of links that are simple round loops. It is available with links of many different diameters. In addition, cable chain comes in both base and precious metal. Drawn cable chain has oval loops.

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Sterling silver drawn cable chain, characterized by elongated loops. Plain cable chain has round loops.
Cas Webber
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Cable Wire

Cable wire consists of strands of steel wire twined together and coated with nylon, which may be clear or colored. The number and thickness of the individual wire strands determines the diameter, flexibility, and strength of the cable wire. This wire works well for bead stringing because it is strong and resists stretching and fraying The higher the number of strands the less prone to kinking the wire is. Jewelry strung on cable wire should always be finished with crimps.

Cable wire is made by a number of different manufacturers. The more prominent brand names of cable wire include the following:

Beadalon® beading wire comes in 7-, 19-, and 49-strand versions. Flex-Rite® uses state-of-the-art micro-wire technology to produce a cable that is strong, soft, and flexible in a versatile range of colors, materials, diameters, and strand counts. Soft Flex® beading wire comes in diameters of .014 inch (fine), .019 inch (medium), and .024 inch (heavy). Soft Flex cable wire is available in many colors and including a variety of metallics. Soft Touch® beading wire is 50% softer and more flexible than the original Soft Flex wire. It is considered a premium cable wire and comes in four diameters: .010 inch (very fine), .014 inch (fine), .019 inch (medium), and .024 inch (heavy).

Acculon’s Tigertail™ is another cable wire, which is more affordable but more rigid than other brands because all the cables in this line have only seven strands.

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Miniature steel cable is and extremely strong yet flexible beading cord.
Cas Webber

Flex-rite brand cable wire.
Cas Webber

Soft Flex brand cable wire Extreme edition.
Cas Webber
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Cabochons

A cut and polished, but unperforated piece of stone designed to be set for a ring, pin, or pendant. Usually round or oval, cabochons are typically flat on the back and slightly domed on the front. Molded glass cabochons also exist and are sometimes backed with foil to give them more sparkle. In addition to the usual settings in metal, cabochons can be framed and attached to leather with various seed bead stitches.

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Cadmium

This element gives glass a strong “Imperial” yellow color. It has been used from the 19th century onward and thus serves as a helpful marker for determining whether beads were made before of after the introduction of this coloring agent.

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Calipers

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See: Millimeter Guage


Brass caliper.
Cas Webber
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Cambay

Many, if not most, of the carnelian beads found round the world originated in Cambay, or Khambat, a stone-working center in Gujarat, in western India, where the exploitation of rich deposits of carnelian as well as onyx and agate dates back more than 6,000 years. As early as 2,500 BC Harappan bead cutters shaped Cambay carnelian into long elegant bicones that were traded to Mesopotamia.

 

From AD 1300 the lapidary industry flourished in the Cambay area, as craftsmen produced Muslim amulets and prayer strands, and great quantities of carnelian beads for the African market. Arab traders ferried these goods to eastern Africa in monsoon-driven dhows, or carried them to Mecca and Cairo and thence into western Africa via camel caravan.

 

The 19th century brought competition—first from carnelian beads and ornaments carved in Idar-Oberstein in Germany, then from molded glass imitations made in Bohemia—and the Cambay bead trade declined. But Africa remains the major consumer of the region’s output.

 

The high iron content of Cambay carnelian accounts for its rich red-orange color, which is brought out by drying the stones in the sun and repeatedly heating them in simple kilns. This process and other techniques and tools used by Indian artisans have changed little over thousands of years. Their beads are less uniform in size and shape, and are drilled with less precision than modern machine-made beads produced in Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the Cambay carnelian beads have the warmth and beauty that comes from being hand crafted. Because of their enduring appeal, Cambay is still one of the largest stone beadworking centers of the world.

 

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See Also: Agate Carnelian Idar-Oberstein: Talhakimt


Carnelian beads from ancient Cambay, India, collected in Africa with some crystal and possibly indigenous granitic beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Cameo

A design, often a human head in profile, carved into a layered stone or shell to reveal and make use of the different colored layers for contrast between the foreground and background of the image. The technique was popular in ancient Rome under Augustus and revived during the late Renaissance. Pressed glass cameos acheive a similar effect with far less effort.

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See: Stamping

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Cane

A long, thin drawn rod of glass used in lampworking for making and decorating beads. Canes are also bundled, fused and sliced to create mosaic cross sections that are applied to glass beads for mosaic or millefiori effects.

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See Also: Lampworked Beads Millefiori Beads Venetian Trade Beads Mosaic Beads

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Cane Beads

An obsolete name for drawn beads, which are also sometimes called blown beads or furnace glass. Unlike lampworked glass beads that only require a torch (or "lamp") to make and decorate them, drawn beads require a furnace where large quantities of glass can be melted before being drawn out into long tubes, which are then sliced or pinched into beads. Blowing is generally not part of the drawing porcess, except to insert a bubble of air into the "gather" of molten glass. As the gather is drawn into a tube that can be 100 feet or more long, the bubble is also elongated forming the hole in the center of the tube.

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Canton

City in southern China (today known as Guangzhou) where beads were made since at least the 18th Century. The name Canton beads has sometimes been erroneously applied to any Chinese glass bead of the 18th or 19th Century.

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See Also: Chinese Glass Beads

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Capped Beads

Sometimes gold caps are permanently applied to the ends of valuable ancient stone beads—such as etched carnelians, dZi, and related banded agates—to conceal damage or reinforce fragile beads. This style has been copied in some contemporary silver-capped beads from Nepal. The new beads most frequently capped in this way include carnelian, amber, turquoise, and some naturally banded agates or imitation dZi.

More information to come...

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Long Carnelian and silver bead from Nepal and capped faux Amber bead from Mali, West Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Caps

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See: Bead Caps

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Capstan Beads

Capstan beads are spool shaped beads. Chinese examples, like those shown below, are actually ear plugs.

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See: Ear Spools—Ancient Chinese Erhtang


Ancient Chinese glass erhtang, or ear spool, probably lapidary-worked; also known as a capstan bead or spool bead.
Robert K. Liu

An assortment of Chinese glass erhtang—also called capstan, or ear spool—beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Carat

A unit of weight for precious stones. One carat is equal to 0.2 grams. The term should not be confused with karat, which is a measure of the purity of gold.

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See Also: Karat

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Carnelian

Carnelian, also spelled cornelian in Britain—from cornaline, the French term for the stone, probably derived from the cornel cherry because of its color.

Translucent- to opaque chalcedony with a waxy to vitreous luster and color gradations from creamy flesh tones through rusty orange to dark reddish brown. In the natural variety, from India, the color, caused by iron oxides, is distributed uniformly or in cloudy patches. The color-enhanced variety, which is Brazilian agate dyed in Germany, shows striations when held against the light.

Widely used since antiquity in jewelry and other decorative objects, this stone was particularly popular for seals because wax does not readily adhere to polished carnelian.

In addition to India and Brazil, Uruguay and the US boast deposits of this popular stone.

Ancient Egyptian warriors wore carnelian amulets to give them the courage and strength to prevail over their enemies. Others, however, have looked to carnelian to still hot blood, foster good feelings, and strengthen the reproductive organs.

More information to come...

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads Cambay Etched Carnelian Beads


Long carnelian tube beads.
Robert K. Liu

Various shapes of new Indian carnelian beads.
Robert K. Liu

Indian carnelian beads carved in traditional shapes.
Robert K. Liu
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Carnelian Beads From Africa

Carnelian is valued and popular among the Fulani of Mali and Burkina Faso. It is however, not mined in Africa so where did it come from? India produces most of the world’s supply of light colored carnelian and it has been extracted, cut, drilled and polished in and around Camby since ancient times. It seems these semi-precious orange beads traveled by sea to Arabia and by caravan across the Sahara along with Islam as it expanded across the continent. The 8-10mm round, oval, and 10 by 20mm roughly rectangular tube beads of Indian carnelian are mixed with quartz crystal or clear glass beads and black and white Venetian trade beads to construct the classic Fulani necklaces.

Another type of carnelian bead necklace, darker and more like the carnelian stones from Brazil, was cut and polished in Idar-Oberstein, Germany before being shipped to Africa and sold or traded to wealthy Fulani women. The beads on these necklaces are considerably larger than the Indian ones and consist of a mix of coin-shaped beads 30-40mm in diameter, long tubular beads 12 to 15mm by 50-60mm and sometimes claw shaped beads as well. Traditionally these beads were mixed with a few black and yellow Venetian lampworked trade beads, although when they appear in markets the Venetian beads have usually been removed.

More information to come...

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See Also: Cambay Carnelian


Old carnelian from northwest Africa, shaped in Cambay, India, and traded across the Sahara.
Robert K. Liu

Various shapes of old or ancient carnelian beads from Cambay, India, traded to Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Cased Beads

Due to the cost and difficulty of making red glass, solid red glass beads of any size made before the 20th century are rare. Red or orange overlays or casing over white or yellow cores or matrices was found to be a good substitute. One example shown here is Chinese, probably from early- to mid-20th century and can be as large as 1.8 cm in diameter. Much more common are the various types of Cornaline d’Aleppo beads (commonly called white hearts) made in Venice, using the same techniques but of older vintage, which also have white or yellow cores. Contemporary American glass beadmakers frequently use a clear glass overlay on their drawn beads to add depth and luster to the color. Some also use an inner layer of white glass below the color to enhance brightness.

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See Also: White Heart Beads Cornaline d&rsquo Aleppo


Antique, cased Chinese glass bead.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary cased glass beads. Clear glass casing adds depth and luster to drawn glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Cased beads with acid-etched matte finish.
Robert K. Liu
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Cast Beads

Beads made by the process of casting, where molten metal is poured into a mold of the desired shape. Beads can be individually cast as in the lost wax process where the mold must be broken to release the finished bead, or mass produced in two-part, resusable molds. Although some cast beads are made in sterling silver, most consist of base metal that is often plated. Well-made cast beads can be both attractive and durable although they tend to be heavier than forged or stamped beads. Their relatively low price point and wide variety of shapes, sizes and finishes make them attractive to designers. Rhode Island has been a center for casting in the US. Until recently mass produced casting of beads was not found in developing bead-producing countires due to the cost of equipment and scale of the operation required. In India, Indonesia and Thialand forging in home workshops remains the norm, while in West Africa lost wax casting of brass remains the traditionl method. However, China has recently emerged as a large scale producer of good quality cast beads. Apparently high volume production methods for making hardware and toys has been adapted to beadmaking with satisfying and profitable results.

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See Also: Base Metal


An assortment of American made cast and plated base metal beads.
Cas Webber
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Cat’s Eye

Chrysoberyl or chalcedony that exhibit chatoyance, a linear sheen of light that seems to move over the bead’s surface. Also a name for glass beads of various colors that shimmer with the opalescent cat’s eye effect. The glass cat’s eye beads have also been called "fiber-optic" beads because they are created with by fusing quartz fibers that are also used for fiber-optic cables.

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See Also: Chatoyance Tiger&rsquo s Eye

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Cedar Seed Beads

Found strung into necklaces in the American desert southwest, these beads are actually juniper berries and are used in Native American cleansing ceremonies. They are also known as ghost beads because of their association with the Ghost Dance.

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Celtic Ring Beads

Glass ring beads, or ringperlen, are found in the United Kingdom and on the Continent, especially in Celtic sites. These annular beads may date to the late La Tène period of the last two centuries BC. Of pleasing shapes, like well-shaped doughnuts, they are often translucent green to almost clear when trans-illuminated. They range from 1.6 to 2.1 cm in diameter. Their trailed decorations are often feathered, as on the one shown, and the glass is usually in good to excellent condition.

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See Also: Annular Beads Ring Beads Ringperlen


A glass ring bead, probably from a Celtic site in Europe.
Robert K. Liu
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Ceramic Beads

This term encompasses several distinct types of beads: those made from clay or earthenware and those made of porcelain as well as faience. China has a long and illustrious history of porcelain-making so it’s not surprising that most of the world’s porcelain beads are Chinese. Perennially popular, they come in traditional blue and white and multicolored patterns as well as brighter contemporary palettes.

Peru also produces porcelain beads, but is more famous for its hand-painted clay beads made primarily in and around Cusco. Additional ceramic bead types include extremely small (2-3 x 10-12mm), ridged tubular clay beads from Mali in West Africa, and clay spindle whorls used as beads, from both Ecuador and West Africa, especially by the Dogon people.

Artisans in the United States, especially Howard Newcomb, have produced some of the most subtle and sophisticated ceramic beads for necklaces, while others have experimented with bright glazes or rolling tubular beads over textured surfaces to make impressions in the beads which are then emphasized with dyes.

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See Also: Newcomb, Howard Peruvian Beads Faience Chinese Beads—Contemporary


Contemporary clay and porcelain beads.
Robert K. Liu

Chinese (top), Greek (middle) and Peruvian ceramic beads.
Cas Webber
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Ceylon

A pearly luster, usually produced in pastel colors and applied as a surface finish to seed beads and molded glass beads made in the Czech Republic, Japan, Taiwan, and France. There is no connection to the island of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon.

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See Also: Seed Beads


Japanese size 8 Pink Ceylon glass Delica seed beads.

Cas Webber
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Chain

A flexible series of connected metal links. In beaded jewelry design links are often interspersed with beads or beads are dangled from links of chain. Chain can also form an adjustable extender or closure at the back of a necklace allowing it to be worn at different lengths to match a variety of necklines, or neck sizes.

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See: Ball Chain Bead Chain Cable Chain Curb Chain Drawn Cable Chain Figaro Chain Long-and-Short Chain Omega Chain Rolo Chain Snake Chain


Silver cable chain.
Cas Webber
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Chain Beads

Alternate term for glass snake beads, that have a zig-zag profile and interlock like snake vertabrae. Many, but not all, were made by the Prosser method.

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See Also: Snake Beads Prosser Beads

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Chain Mail

A mesh composed of interlocking jump rings, once used as body armor during the Middle Ages. The French spelling Chaine maille is also sometimes used.

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Chain Nose Pliers

These jewelry tools feature smaller and finer jaws than similar hardware store versions. Available with smooth or serrated jaws, which have half-round tips, they serve many functions.

Smooth jaws are handy for opening and closing jump rings, straightening out loops made with round nose pliers, flattening crimps (although crimping pliers create a more streamlined and secure finish), and many other uses. Smooth jaws have the advantage that they don’t leave marks on your work.

Personal preferences, budget, environmental conditions, and the type and amount of work you do will determine which pliers are best for you. Carbon steel is strongest, but will rust if not protected from moisture. Drop-forged and box-jointed tools stand up to more stress than die-cast and lap-jointed versions. Ergonomic handles and spring-action joints can reduce strain if you use your tools extensively. Size also matters. Tools with the same size jaws can have handles varying several inches in length. Choose the ones that fit your hands best. Mini tools find favor with children and beaders on the move.

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Chain nose pliers used for bending wire, crimping, and more.
Cas Webber
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Chalcedony

Chalcedony is the microcrystalline, or cryptocrystalline, form of the quartz group of gemstones. That is, it is made up of “microscopic,” or “hidden,” crystals, so small they are not visible to the naked eye, unlike macrocrystalline quartz, such as amethyst, which is composed of large crystals. Chalcedony occurs worldwide and has been prized since prehistoric times. It was probably named after Chalcedon, an ancient Greek port on the Bosporus, which may have been a transit point on a trade route that carried chalcedony to the Mediterranean region from sources to the east—Iran, Afghanistan, and India.

Today, these countries remain important suppliers of microcrystalline quartz as well as many other gem-grade minerals, both rough and finished. In Roman times, the area around Idar-Oberstein, in present-day Germany, provided raw agate and jasper to the classical world. In the 15th century a lapidary industry was established there to finish these materials. It grew and flourished until the mines were depleted in the 19th century. The major modern sources of chalcedony being exploited today lie in Brazil and Uruguay, who ship much of their output, mostly drab and colorless raw material, to Germany for processing in Idar-Oberstein, which has become a world-class lapidary center renowned for its sophisticated techniques for coloring, cutting, and polishing gemstones.

Chalcedony has many varieties, which can be divided into two types, those that are fine-grained and fibrous in structure and those that are granular. In addition to being the name of the species, chalcedony is the name of its purest variety, which ranges from a milky white to a beautiful pale lavender-blue in color. This “blue chalcedony,” as it is often called, is typically translucent with a waxy luster and displays no banding or other distinctive markings.

Other varieties owe their colors and patterns to mineral impurities. In addition, chalcedony tends to be porous, except for white layers, so most varieties can be, and often are, easily stained or otherwise treated to alter or enhance their natural coloration. Today methods that go back to antiquity as well as new techniques are widely used and are long-accepted practice in the gemstone world. Indeed, dZi beads, which have been revered in Asia for thousands of years and today are highly valued by collectors worldwide, are artificially altered agate.

The largest variety of chalcedony is agate, which has numerous subvarieties that are distinguished by parallel to concentric banding; they occur in a spectrum of many different colors, transparent to almost opaque. Onyx, though often misconstrued to be all black, has contrasting parallel layers of black or dark brown, alternating with white. Sardonyx exhibits similar layers of dark brownish red with white or cream. Iron oxides in carnelian create its range of hues from translucent pale yellowish orange to dark reddish brown. The apple green of chrysoprase is due to its nickel content; the leek green of prase comes from chlorite inclusions; and green agate gets its color from chromium. Moss agate contains mineral inclusions that form dark mossy flecks and fronds in a matrix of clear colorless chalcedony. Bloodstone gets its name from the splotches of red jasper spattered throughout its dark green core.

Jasper is also a microcrystalline quartz, and gemologists usually consider it a variety of chalcedony. But because jasper is granular, lacks distinctive patterning, and contains up to 20% foreign matter (making it the least pure form of chalcedony), jasper is sometimes classified as a separate species of quartz, which in turn has numerous varieties. They are generally opaque and, for the most part, red to ochre, but they also occur in shades of yellow and brown, green and gray blue. Some varieties are monochrome, some are striped (riband jasper) or have a circular eye-like pattern (orbicular jasper), and some display a crazy quilt of contrasting colors.

Chalcedony’s multitude of glorious colors and endlessly fascinating patterns attracted even our earliest ancestors. Agate found in France in association with Stone Age human remains provides evidence that the use of chalcedony for adornment goes back to the Paleolithic period. The mining of rich deposits of carnelian, onyx, agates, jasper, and other quartz minerals in the Narmada Valley in India dates back more than 6000 years. Around 2500 BC bead cutters of the Indus Civilization fashioned carnelian from this region into elegant long bicones, which they exported from Harappa (in present-day Pakistan) to the Royal House of Ur (in present-day Iraq).

The Egyptians have a long history of using many varieties of chalcedony before 3000 BC. Agate, carnelian, and chrysoprase were favorites for making beads and pendants to construct elaborate jewelry. In the 2nd millennium, the Mycenaeans and Assyrians used sard in articles of personal adornment. And in the 1st millennium, the Greeks often chose prase, a dark leek green variety, with chlorite inclusions, which is rarely used in jewelry today. Carnelian and sard were among the varieties of chalcedony preferred by Roman lapidaries.

The frequent choice of chalcedony for personal adornment is partly due to its tough fibrous structure, which makes it very durable and able to withstand the toll of wear and tear on jewelry. But the main reason for its popularity is the attractiveness of its colors and patterns. These attributes usually determine the value of a stone. Among the well-known varieties of chalcedony used in jewelry, chrysoprase is the rarest and most expensive. Translucency is also an important attribute in chrysoprase, as well as carnelian and many types of agate.

Virtually all varieties of chalcedony make excellent beads that are beautiful but sturdy, of all shapes and sizes in a rainbow of colors, monochrome or patterned, smooth or faceted. Polished slices of chalcedony with concentric banding, such as fortification agate, or with dendritic inclusions, such as landscape agate, make striking pendants. Cutting fire agate en cabochon brings out its shimmering iridescence to enhance rings, brooches, and necklace components.

Chalcedony’s fine-grained texture and hardness (7 on the Mohs’ scale), as well as its fibrous structure, also make it an ideal stone for carving. In the ancient world it was often used for seals because it could be incised with detailed designs that would make sharp, distinctive impressions. In addition, hot wax did not adhere to chalcedony’s fine-grained surface, and it was durable. Chalcedony seals dating to the 2nd millennium BC have been found at the Minoan Palace of Knossos, in Crete. For those same qualities, ancient Egyptian craftsmen often chose chalcedony for carving amulets. Muslim merchants have traditionally favored seals made of carnelian, and the Prophet Muhammed, himself, is said to have owned one.

Throughout history, chalcedony’s fine grain has also made it the gemstone of choice for carving fine intricate designs for cameos and intaglio pieces. Varieties that exhibit sharply contrasting parallel layers are especially desirable—in particular, onyx with its bold bands of black and white, and sardonyx, with its alternating layers of dark red and cream. While the dark layer serves as the background, the raised relief of a cameo or the incised design in intaglio work is carved in the light layer—or sometimes the reverse.

Age-old legends and New Age beliefs have extended chalcedony’s virtues from the stone to the owner or wearer of the stone, from the world of rocks and minerals to one’s personal physical and psychic realm. Thus chalcedony’s strength, hardness, toughness, and durability endow the believer with physical energy, fortitude, stamina, and endurance. In classical Greece and Rome, Olympian athletes and Caesar’s centurions carried or wore this stone as a talisman in the hope it would make them invincible. In medieval times, cups and other vessels were carved from chalcedony not only because of the stone’s beauty but because it was believed to have the power to counteract poisons.

Chalcedony’s many varieties have different attributes that are thought to give them various powers to protect or heal a person, to ward off evil or bring one good fortune. For example, carnelian is believed to give one courage, whether one is going into battle or taking a new uncharted path. Bloodstone is said to protect a person from deception and sorcery. Chrysoprase is thought to strengthen one’s eyesight and, by extension, to shield one from the forces of darkness.

Stones of blue chalcedony were considered sacred by Native Americans, who used them in ceremonies and healing rituals. The cool, placid hues of blue chalcedony are easily translated into the power to calm anxiety and soothe emotions, to alleviate fears and feelings of anger; to eliminate stress and clear the mind, to help one center and restore balance; to become serene and more conscious in thought and speech, and thus improve communication with one’s inner being, the outer world, and the invisible; to become at peace with oneself and all that is around one.

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Ancient chalcedony.
Robert K. Liu

Translucent ancient chalcedony.
Robert K. Liu
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Champleve

An enamel technique, similar to cloisonné, where powdered glass fills depressions in a metal bead, which is then fired to fuse the glass to the metal.

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See Also: Enamel Beads Cloisonné Beads

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Chandelier

A term used for elaborate earrings or earring components that are reminiscent of fancy light fixtures with multiple shimmering dangles attached to loops and branches.

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Copper chandelier finding with six loops for dangles.

Cas Webber
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Charlotte Beads

Also known as "one-cuts" or "true-cuts" these small European seed beads have a single facet. The name generally refers to seed beads size 13 and smaller although it has also been applied to larger seed beads.

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Charm Case

A container, usually of metal or leather, which holds a written charm, sacred scripture, or magical substance. Worn throughout India, the Himalayan countries and the Middle East, these containers have also been called amulet cases or prayer rolls, but they hold more than amulets and rarely contain prayers.

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See Also: Amulets

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Charms

Small dangles such as those used on charm bracelets. Alternately, an objcet believed to influence the spirits or fate. Many beads have functioned as charms throughout history.

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See Also: Amulets Talismans

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Charoite

Named after the Charo River in Siberia, this stone is a complex mineral that ranges in color from pale lilac to deep purple. It sometimes occurs with black or gold inclusions and measures 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness. In crystal healing Charoite is known for its ability to help purge inner negativity, dispell bad dreams, and protect from psychic attack. It facilitates the release of unconscious fears and serves as a catalyst for healing.

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Charoite beads.
Cas Webber
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Chasing

Chasing is a decorative process that involves applying pressure to the front of a metal piece by using a hammer and variously shaped punches to create linear designs on the surface of flat or shaped metal. A smith also uses it to sharpen details and define the design in repoussé work and metal castings.

 

Chasing is the opposite of repoussé, in that in repoussé work the smith generally applies pressure to the back of the metal in order to raise designs in relief. Chasing is similar to stamping, except that in stamping the smith uses a stamp or a punch with a pattern or texture that he impresses into the metal with a single sharp blow of his hammer. Chasing differs from engraving in that no metal is removed, as it is in the engraving process. When making hollow metal beads, the smith must complete all work that requires hammering before soldering the two halves of the bead together.

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See Also: Engraving Repoussé Stamping

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Chasing Hammer

A hammer with a two-sided steel head and a wooden handle. One side of the hammer’s head is a flat disk, which has a broad surface for flattening wire. The other side of the head consists of a ball, which is used for riveting and chasing. High-quality hammers have a handle that is equal to the weight of the head, which gives balance to the tool. You can use a chasing hammer with an anvil or a bench block when working with wire or sheet metal.

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See Also: Anvil Bench Block


Chasing hammer used for flattening and texturing wire.
Cas Webber
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Chatoyance

From the french for "to shimmer" (and possibly also related to the french for cat) this term referes to a reflected band of light caused by alligned inclusions in stone or glass beads. The common name for this effect and beads that exhibit is is cat’s eye.

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See Also: Cat&rsquo s Eye Tiger&rsquo s Eye

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Chequer Beads

Alternate name for early Roman, European, and Islamic mosaic cane beads with square elements folded or fused together.

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See Also: Mosaic Beads

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Cherry Quartz

A pink or reddish dyed quartz or glass that imitates stone. Generally stone names that have two parts are an indication that the material is not what it might seem to be.

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Cherry Tomato Beads

Information to come...

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Large, European-made “cherry tomato” beads from East Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Chevron Beadmaking

Information to come...

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The process of grinding to expose the chevron pattern.
Robert K. Liu
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Chevron Beads

Chevron beads are classic examples of the drawing technique used to make glass beads. These beads consist of several layers that are built up before the tube is drawn. Their Italian name, rosetta, refers to the cross section, which looks like a flower or a star as a result of the molten gather being pressed into a mold. After being drawn out, the ends are either pinched, or ground off to show the zig-zag pattern of the original layers. The result is a bead with an star-like chevron pattern of layered colors on each end.

The first chevrons (with seven layers and faceted ends) are believed to have been made in Venice 1480-1580. They were later copied by the French and the Dutch after some Venetian glass beadmakers were enticed to share their trade secrets. More recent copies can be identified by looking for characteristic markings of the molds and by checking which colors of glass fluoresce under a UV lamp.

The most common colors in genuine chevron beads are blue, red and white or green, red and white. More recent chevrons can be found in a much wider variety of color schemes. Chevron beads are still popular collectors’ items in present day West Africa. They indicate prestige and are worn in various ceremonies. They are sometimes even buried with the dead. Alternate names include Paternoster, Rosetta, Star, Sun, and Watermelon.

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See Also: Chevron Beads—Contemporary Chevron Beadmaking Chevron Beads From Americas Watermelon Beads


Classic antique Venetian chevron bead from the African trade.
Robert K. Liu

A collection of contemporary Venetian chevrons.
Robert K. Liu

Indian chevron beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Chevron Beads From Americas

Small seven layer chevron beads are increasingly being used to date and map European contact sites in the Americas. They have been found in Florida, Peru and most recently have been used by East Carolina University archeologists to follow Hernando de Soto expeditions thorughout the southest in 1539-41. Beads and other artifacts that have been recovered from excavations related to de Soto’s travels are housed in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia. More information to come...

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Small seven layer roughly-ground classic chevron beads from Peru mixed with striped chevrons. These beads were traded by the Spanish throughout the Americas in the 16th century.
Robert K. Liu
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Chevron Beads—Contemporary

Information to come...

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See Also: Heron Glass


Contemporary chevron bead by Mary Mullaney of Heron Glass.
Robert K. Liu

Collection of contemporary chevrons in various color combinations
Robert K. Liu
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Chevron Beads—Imitations

Since Venetian glass chevron beads were one of the most important trade beads, many attempts have been made to imitate them. The most common method was to lampwork the chevron design onto a wound glass bead. The six small imitation glass chevrons with the design trailed on (shown here) were possibly made in China. They were in use in Kalimantan, Borneo.

A rare type of imitation used the Prosser method of pressing cold paste in a mold under high pressure, then firing the molded item. The main manufacturer was the French firm of Bapterosses, which began using this technique in the 19th century and also licensed it to bead and button makers in other countries. As is apparent from the bead on the right in the second image, the design is only on the surface. It has become worn on this example from the African trade. The other bead is an imitation made of polymer in the mid-1990s, by the artist Jacqueline Janes.

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See Also: Replicas and Reproductions Simulations and Copies Interpretations of Beads


Lampworked imitation chevron beads, possibly Chinese-made, from Kalimantan, Borneo (0.65 to 1.0 cm diameters).
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary polymer chevron replica (left) and Prosser imitation chevron (2.2 cm long).
Robert K. Liu
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Chinese Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Cloisonné Beads Inside Painted Beads Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations

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Chinese Beads—Contemporary

In the early 1970s, when trade between the U.S. and China resumed, a wave of vintage beads and ornaments reached our shores. Composed mostly of jewelry and components from the early Qing to just post World War II era, these pieces delighted collectors and designers alike. As the vintage material become scarce, newer beads began appearing. Most repeated traditional designs in materials historically used in China including porcelain, wood, cinnabar, cloisonné and enameled metal, along with some stone and a little glass. By the beginning of the 21st China was exporting massive quantities of manufactured goods all over the world and communist ideology was giving way to capitalist entrepreneurial spirit. Possibly influenced by bead traders who started venturing into China after collecting expeditions to India, Indonesia, and Thailand, the Chinese also began mass-producing beads. They soon eclipsed the Indians as the purveyors of inexpensive lampworked beads that imitated European, Indian, Indonesian, and African designs. By the 1990s the Chinese were also producing intricate mosaic beads and impressive looking chevrons. Blown glass beads and foil glass beads soon followed, crushing the market for the Venetian originals. A few problems remain to be solved for this industry to truly thrive. Through lack of understanding of the process or due to excessive pressure to produce, Chinese beads are usually not annealed properly. The failure to cool the glass down slowly under controlled conditions creates stresses in the glass that cause a lot of Chinese glass beads to break. The producers could also benefit from some advice on color combining. Finally, many attractive Chinese glass beads have dropped out of production after just a year or two because the vendors flood the market with each new design at ever lower prices thus devaluing the product in the eyes of the buyers and destroying any profit margin for producers and vendors. Slightly higher prices and more limited supply could have kept many styles of beads profitable and in demand indefinitely. The Chinese manufacturers apparently have not yet understood the difference between the market for beads and the market for plastic buckets or cheap electronics where price matters more than quality. The lesson may be being learned with cast metal beads that have begun appearing around 2009-10. Quality appears to be as good or better than many American manufacturers’ and designs are often more appealing to a contemporary audience. Unfettered by any tradition in this arena, shapes and patterns reflect popular designs from Africa, Asia, and Native American traditions along with contemporary influences. Meanwhile, Hong Kong factories churn out literally boat loads of gemstone beads in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes. The perceived intrinsic value of the stones, combined with ever-changing shapes and finishes, along with relatively low prices keeps this segment of the industry perennially interesting. China has also long since overtaken Japan as the main exporter of freshwater pearls. Clearly China has the resources, technology and manpower to remain a major producer of wide variety of beads for a long time. The question is whether issues of quality and supply can be managed appropriately and whether they can move from effective copying of beads developed by others to evolving original designs.

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See Also: Cinnabar, Cloisonne, Porcelain


Contemporary Chinese porcelain and, on the last three rows, cinnabar beads. All are 1980s beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Chinese Eye Beads

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See: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations

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Chinese Faience Beads

Information to come...

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Ancient Chinese faience beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Chinese Glass Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Mandarin Court Necklace Beads Peking Glass Starburst Beads Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Blue Chinese “Peking Glass” bead.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Chinese glass beads.
Cas Webber

Lapidary-worked Chinese glass; Court necklace components.
Robert K. Liu
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Chinese Glass—Lapidary-Worked Ornaments

Information to come...

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See Also: Chinese Glass Beads


Chinese lapidary-worked glass necklace component.
Robert K. Liu

Chinese lapidary-worked glass necklace components.
Robert K. Liu

Chinese lapidary-worked glass ornaments.
Robert K. Liu
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Chinese Stone Beads

Information to come...

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Chinese jade and carnelian beads in traditional shapes.
Robert K. Liu
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Choker

A short necklace worn close to the neck. Length for women is 14-16" and for men about 18".

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Christmas Beads

When the African traders who sell these beads are asked why they call them Christmas Beads, the usual response is that they don’t know. Some have proposed that it’s because their bright multi-colors evoke happy and celebratory feelings, so the name remains a mystery.

The beads themselves are not. Typically 36 inches long, the strands include a mix of old and new, plain and striped, seed beads, tile beads, pressed glass round and oval beads, and other small European glass beads of mostly Czech and Venetian origin. In the late 70s and early 80s small chevrons, watermelon beads, whitehearts, greenhearts, and other, more complex early trade beads could be found on some Christmas bead strands. As time goes by and trade networks expand, new beads increasingly predominate, with a few Indian seed beads also beginning to replace some European ones. Although most strands tend heavily towards yellow (an auspicious and desirable color for beads in Africa and China among other places), some tend more towards red and a very few have significant numbers of blue beads. Some strands consist of mostly size 8° seed beads, while others also contain at least 50% size 6° seed beads and other larger monochrome and striped beads.

The term Love Beads is a misnomer when applied to these African strands. Although Love Beads, popular in the 1960s and 70s among the counter culture generation, were also longish strands of mostly small beads, they were created by the wearers and their friends as tokens of love, not bought from African traders who did not begin to arrive on the scene in significant numbers until the mid-1970s. Love Beads, often worn in multiples and sometimes with pendants also tended to be shorter, more monochrome (favoring blues and purples as well as the warmer colors), and included silver lined beads, bugle beads, and other beads not traded to Africa or incorporated into Christmas Beads.

We welcome any additional information about the history of Christmas Beads and their name.

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“Christmas beads” from the African trade. Long strands of seed beads and other small striped and monochrome glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

African "Christmas beads."
Cas Webber
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Chrysocolla

An opaque green to blue stone that sometimes looks like very vibrantly colored greenish turquoise. This hydrous silicate of copper is sometimes inter-grown with quartz, malachite, or turquoise. Eilat stone, found north of Eilat in Israel, is chrysocolla inter-grown with both turquoise and malachite.

Chrysocolla occurs in association with malachite in Zaire as well as in Israel. Other deposits are found in Chile, Russia, and in Arizona and Nevada in the US.

Credited with curative powers, chrysocolla was once used for purification.

More information to come...

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Chrysoprase

Chrysoprase come from the Greek for “golden leek,” because of its bright spring green color. The vivid coloring of this translucent to opaque form of chalcedony comes from the presence of nickel silicate. Sometimes it also displays inclusions of brown or white matrix. Comparatively rare and valuable, fine quality chrysoprase may be mistaken for jade. Often cut as cabochons and carved into ornamental objects, chrysoprase has also been used in the interior decor of churches and castles.

Mined in Poland since the 14th century, those chrysoprase deposits are now worked out. Today the best stones come from Queensland in Australia. Other deposits are found in Brazil, India, the Malagasy Republic, South Africa, Russia, and the western US.

A medieval poet claimed that chrysoprase held under the tongue of a condemned thief would enable him to escape execution, presumably by rendering him invisible. Holding a quite different view, a theologian associated chrysoprase with Christ’s sternness toward sinners. Since antiquity, however, this bright green stone has commonly been thought to be lucky and bring success. On his eastern campaigns, Alexander the Great carried a “prase” in his belt as a victory talisman.

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Australian chrysoprase beads.
Cas Webber
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Cinnabar

Cinnabar is mercury sulfide, which is rarely made into beads. Chinese beads sold as cinnabar are actually lacquer beads colored with the red pigment. Cinnabar beads come in various sizes of round beads carved with auspicious or decorative symbolism and characters. In addition large coin-shaped beads and beads depicting fish, dragons and other creatures can be used as beads or pendants. Recently, all of these styles have begun appearing in blue, green, yellow, brown, and black and off-white in addition to the traditional bright red.

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Various shapes of contemporary cinnabar beads.
Cas Webber

Non-traditional blue colored cinnabar.
Cas Webber

Detailed close up of contemporary large Chinese cinnabar bead.
Cas Webber
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Citrine

Citrine is named for its lemon yellow color. It’s a transparent quartz ranging from lemon yellow through flame orange to golden brown. Natural citrine is rare and usually very pale yellow. Heat-treated stones, which are mostly amethyst, tend to have a reddish hue. The best deposits are found in Madagascar; the biggest, in Brazil; others, in the US, Spain, France, Scotland, and Russia.

Thought to aid digestion and relieve stomach, liver, and gall bladder problems. Also dispels mental blocks and promotes courage, confidence, creativity, clear thinking, and a cheerful outlook.

More information to come...

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Citrine nuggets.
Cas Webber
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City Zen Cane

Information to come...

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See Also: Fimo


City Zen Cane Fimo beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Clamp

A clamp can be anything that is used to hold components while making jewelry. It can hold wire while you are using other tools, or it can simply hold the ends of your string to secure your beads when you are in the middle of a project.

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Clamshell Disk Beads

Thin, flat, round beads, or disk beads, are crafted from the shells of clams and other marine and freshwater bivalve mollusks by peoples around the world using a technique that dates back more than 20,000 years. First, roughly circular bead blanks are chipped from the shell and individually perforated with a sharp stone, an awl, or a bow drill. Then, using a simple mass production system, the beads are strung tightly together on a fiber cord or sinew (or, today, on wire) and rolled against an abrasive stone until they are round and smooth and uniform in diameter.

Clamshell disk beads and beads of other materials that are made by the same method are also broadly called heishi, a Native American term for shell disk beads, which have been made in the American Southwest since prehistoric times when Hohokam trading parties trekked marine shells inland from the Gulf of California by foot. Marine shells from the Florida gulf and Atlantic coasts as well as freshwater clams from the Mississippi were traded hundreds of miles north and westward and made into disk beads by Indian cultures in the Ohio and Illinois river valleys. Similarly some of the earliest beads found China, India, and eastern Europe are disk beads made of marine shells from distant sources.

Africans make disk beads from various kinds of shell: ostrich eggshell, coconut shell, and the shells of giant land snails as well as the shells of several species of bivalve mollusks. West African beads made from freshwater clams (Unio sp.) are typically about 6 mm. to 12 mm. in diameter and range from beige and pale gray to almost white in color. Traders call them coco blanc (French), in contrast to coco noir, the charcoal to black disk beads made from coconut shell. While many African still make many disk beads by hand, today the rich marine resources of the Philippines are being harvested to produce shell disk beads commercially in a wide variety of sizes in natural and dyed colors.

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Clamshell heishi.
Robert K. Liu
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Claw Beads

Information to come...

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Bohemian molded glass beads for the African trade imitating indigenous pendants of animal claws.
Robert K. Liu
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Claws

Claws are widely believed to be extremely powerful amulets, endowing the wearer with the qualities of the animal they come from. In India tradition dictated that the claws be immediately removed from freshly killed tigers to prevent the vengeful return of the animal as a tiger demon that could retaliate against its killer. Tigers bare their claws when attacking, and the Naga warriors and hunters of India displayed their trophy claws as symbols of their strength, courage, and superiority over wild animals. Tiger claws were set in necklaces, and among the Kalyo-Kengyu Nagas, they were attached to the chin straps of helmets to frame the wearer’s face. Claws of pangolins (Indian anteaters) were also used in necklaces that served as powerful protective amulets for Naga shamans. Throughout India pairs of tigers’ claws were worn as amuletic pendants. They were traditionally set in metal, with their bases joined together at the top and their tips below, pointing away from the center. Depending on the wearer’s financial resources, the setting of these amulets might be made of gold, silver, or base metal, and they might be further embellished with pearls and precious gems, or glass imitations. If genuine tiger claws were not available, they could be represented in metal, then sanctified, and the amulet’s power would be activated with a ceremony. In all these examples, the main function of tiger claw amulets was to deflect any evil spirit that might attempt to harm the wearer. In both north and south India, representations of such amulets adorn stone and metal statues of Hindu deities dating back to at least the 5th century AD. During the late 19th century tiger claw necklaces of less elaborate design also became popular in Great Britain as a type of trophy jewelry. Bear claws have been worn as ornaments and amulets by Native Americans. Although claws in African adornment are rare today, they were no doubt prized in earlier times. Indigenous peoples have mimicked claws in numerous materials, including wood, bone, horn, and shell. Europeans introduced molded glass replicas as trade beads, which have proved to have enduring appeal. Glass-making centers in Europe sent agents to Africa, India, and the Middle East to bring back samples and information about popular beads forms, which were then replicated and exported to eager consumers in the regions where the forms were familiar.

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Clear Quartz

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See: Rock Crystal

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Cloisonné Beads

The cloisonné technique involves creating a design with small cells bounded by soldered wire that keep the colors separate. The individual cells are filled with various colors of moistened pulverized glass, which is then fused to the metal surface of the bead. Grinding and polishing produces a smooth surface. As many as six or more steps are required to produce each bead. China has been, and remains, the main producer of cloisonné beads although the technique was also known in Europe.

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See Also: Cloisonné Beads—Antique Chinese Enamel Beads


Various contemporary cloisonné beads.
Cas Webber

Contemporary Chinese cloisonné bead.
Cas Webber
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Cloisonné Beads—Antique Chinese

Among the most desirable Chinese beads are antique cloisonné and enameled ones, especially tabular examples. These round flat beads have dragons and phoenixes on their obverse and reverse sides. Cloisonné beads are shown in both closed- and openwork versions, which are rarer. The surfaces without enamel are plated with silver. As seen in the image, there are four primary shapes. In size, the beads range from 1.9 to 5.1 cm long.

The beads shown here are most likely of pre-World War II vintage. They can easily be distinguished from contemporary beads, made in the People’s Republic of China or Taiwan, by the poorer workmanship the more recent beads. All Chinese cloisonné beads are made entirely of copper, including the cloisonné wire, unlike Western cloisonné work, which usually uses precioius metal wire. The Chinese do, however, sometimes gild the metal wire after the bead is completed. The blue bead with the gold dragon is an enameled bead, whereas the raised dragon was made by the repoussé or stamping technique.

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See Also: Cloisonné Beads Enamel Beads


Antique Chinese cloisonné bead.
Robert K. Liu

An array of antique Chinese cloisonné and enamel beads.
Robert K. Liu

Antique Chinese open-work cloisonné bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Cloves

Cloves are among the materials using in scented beads. Around the Persian Gulf, cloves are strung and worn as necklaces by brides.

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See Also: Scented Beads


Cloves on a necklace.
Robert K. Liu
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Cobalt

A mineral used to create a deep rich blue color in glass beads.

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Cobalt blue pressed glass beads from the Czech Republic.
Robert K. Liu

Cobalt blue Russian Blue beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Coconut Shell Disk Beads

Information to come...

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Dyed coconut shell heishi strands from the Philippines.
Robert K. Liu

Coconut shell disc or heishi beads from West Africa.
Cas Webber
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Coil Beads

Beads resembling short sections of springs, made in China from 9th to 14th Century and especially popular around 1200. May also have been briefly copied in China during the late 20th Century for export to the west.

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Coil Wire

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See: Spring Wire

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Coiling Gizmo

A tool for making coiled wire beads.

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Coiling Gizmo, a tool for making coiled wire beads.
Cas Webber
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Coin Silver

Technically silver with a fineness of .900 (vs sterling at .925) but the term is often used for white metal with silver content as low as 60%.

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Collared Beads

A metal bead, usually round or oval, decorated with an extra bit of material to form a collar around the perforation. These beads were particularly popular in India from about 300 BC to 300 AD and old and new versions can still be found in traditional necklaces of India and the Himalayan regions. More Information to come...

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Two Indian or Nepalese collared silver beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Color Wheel

A color wheel organizes color hues in a circle, showing relationships between colors that are classified as primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary in relation to each other in varioius kinds of color harmony.

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Color wheel used for finding harmonious color combinations with beads.
Cas Webber
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Color-Lined

Color-lined beads—usually seed beads—are made of transparent glass with an opaque colored lining. They are produced in a similar manner to silver-lined beads except the lining solution is a sort of paint in this case. The beads are entirely immersed in the paint solution, then tumbled clean leaving the coloring only inside the hole. The colored paint is subject to fading and can also rub off on the cord.

Clear, colorless glass with an opaque lining produces a sort of three-dimensional look. Clear/black lined seed beads are often call “black caviar.” When the bead is made of colored glass you get a two-tone effect. Imagine aqua/purple lined; yellow/green lined; amber/turquoise lined. White or beige inside lining brightens the outside color.

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Color lined seed beads.
Cas Webber
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Combed Decoration

Also known as feathering, ogee, or scalloped decoration, combed patterns on glass beads consist of wavy or zig-zag designs in two or more colors. To produce these patterns, threads of opaque glass of one or more colors are trailed in roughly parallel lines around a softened glass bead of another color, or less often, the threads are laid lengthwise on the bead. The applied threads are then usually pressed into the bead by marvering. Finally, a sharp pointed instrument is drawn through the still semi-molten threads of glass perpendicular to the lines. Similar effects can be replicated in polymer clay beads before the material is baked.

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See Also: Feathering Marvering


Contemporary Indonesian combed glass beads.


Robert K. Liu
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Composite Beads

The term composite beads refers in general to beads that are made up of a combination of two or more different materials. Examples include ancient Chinese beads of glass over a faience core, and Middle Eastern beads that combined stone and glass.

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations

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Cones

Hollow cone-shaped findings used to disguise the connection where multiple strands of a necklaces are knotted or wired together onto a single cord or wire that is attached to a clasp. Cones are usually made of metal but also exist in stone. They may be short and fat, long and thin, or sometimes curved. Cones that are cylindrical with a rounded end are called bullet cones. The line between some caps and cones can blur, but generally a cap is wider than it is deep, while a cone is longer (often much longer) than it is wide.

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See Also: Bead Caps


Sterling silver cones.
Cas Webber
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Conso

A nylon thread originally produced for the upholstery industry. The thread was designed for hand stitching and is very strong thread with an even twist. The color range has not changed much over the years and continues to be fairly subtle. It works well for micro macramé, simple or complex beading projects, and bead crochet as well as for other, more complex knotting projects. Despite its relatively thick diameter, Conso can be threaded through beads as small as Japanese delicas if the designer has some patience. Supplemax has recently come to dominate the market for this type of cord with its broad range of vibrant colors.

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Conus Shell

The shell or portions of the shell of the marine gastropod Conus has been among the preferred shells used for ornaments and trade since about 20,000 BC. By the end of the ninth century BC, conus shell whorls were being decorated with dots or ring/dot motifs. Their use as ornaments continues to the present; particularly striking are the carved conus shell disks from Mauritania. These are worn by the Tuareg, by other classes associated with these nomads, by Berbers and berberized tribes of Morocco. Used primarily as hair ornaments, these carved shell disks are also found in necklaces. While the conus shell has been much copied in porcelain, Prosser moldings, glass and plastic, no copies have been found of the carved examples. These carved whorls can range from 1.0 to 3.4 cm diameters.

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See Also: Prosser Beads African Shell Beads


Conus shell beads and imitations.
Robert K. Liu

Necklace of conus shell tip beads from Mauritania in Africa.
Robert K. Liu

The conus shell whorl shown has been decorated by sawn lines and drilled holes.
Robert K. Liu
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Copal

Copal is a sub-fossil resin derived from aromatic tree sap that has not fully hardened. It is similar to amber, but much younger, only a few hundred to some 30 thousand years old at most, versus up to 320 million years old for amber. Copal tends to degrade with exposure heat and air. Its surface becomes rough and deeply crazed, shedding white flakes. Although copal can take a high shine and has been used in jewelry, it has been far less popular than amber. East African copal has been exploited mainly for high-quality varnish. Copal from Columbia and the Dominican Republic, which has rich insect inclusions, has traditionally been burned as incense by the Maya and neighboring peoples of the Americas. Copal from both regions has been used to create fake amber with fake inclusions of large insects and even lizards, which has even fooled museums.

 

During the first great influx of African beads into the United States and Europe in the 1970s, much “African amber” (actually a plastic related to Bakelite) was misidentified as copal. The genuine copal found in Berber jewelry in Morocco and Mauritania may have come from sub-Saharan sources in western Africa. The beads are usually irregularly round in circumference, but unlike the round and oblate imitation amber beads, copal beads usually have completely flat ends. In addition, they are often worn or ground down so that one side of the bead is thicker than the other resulting in a necklace that hangs in a smooth curve without gaps between beads.

Source: David A. Grimaldi, Amber: Window to the Past, 1996.

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See Also: Amber


Painstakingly and decoratively repaired copal bead from Africa. The quality of the repair indicates the value of the bead.
Robert K. Liu

Mauritanian copal bead with decoratively reinforced perforations and Tibetan copal inlaid with coral.
Robert K. Liu
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Copies

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See: Simulations and Copies

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Copper Beads

Being a relatively soft and inexpensive metal, copper has long been popular for making beads and findings. Copper beads are sometimes plated with white metal or silver, especially in India and East Africa. Copper can be combined with other metals to make useful and beautiful alloys. Most notably copper is combined with zinc to produce brass, and with tin to produce bronze. Fine silver, with a purity of 99.9% is for most purposes too soft to be worked. For jewelry, sterling silver—an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper by weight—must be used instead. Copper oxide added to glass acts as a coloring agent to produce opaque blue and transparent or opaque red, among other hues.

 

To the consternation of colonial powers and later local governments in Kenya and other African countries, copper wire has been stripped from rural telephone lines and electrical power grids for use in bead and jewelry making. In South Africa, traditional basket-making techniques incorporating beads have been adapted to use legally obtained telephone wire instead of grasses and reeds. The resulting plates, platters, and bowls of various sizes have proved to be visually exciting and popular imports in the US.

 

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See Also: Alloy Aluminum Base Metal Brass Bronze


Tiny copper beads (1-2mm) from Ehtiopia.
Cas Webber

Assorted contemporary copper beads.
Cas Webber
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Coptic Crosses

The Coptic Church, traditionally founded by St. Mark in Egypt, was long persecuted after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century. The Coptic community in Ethiopia has remained stronger than in Egypt and produces a variety of ornaments that, when entroduced to the west by African bead traders, became popular collectors and designers. In Ehtiopia the crosses are typically worn around the neck on a blue cotton cord called a “mateb” which is a baptism gift. Because crosses are a symbol of faith, they are one of the most prized personal possessions in the Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopian crosses feature a wide variety of styles ranging from simple crucifix shapes to more ornate designs with flared arms, trefoils (three overlapping rings), decorative projections and patterns of interwoven lines symbolizing eternity. In the 19th century, hinges and crowns became more common in the designs because of the influence of European medals. Ethiopian crosses also come in a larger version that is mounted on a staff and used in various religious processions.

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Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant.
Cas Webber
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Coral

Coral consists of the skeletons of marine animals called coral polyps, most of which thrive in warm shallow seas and oceans. But there are also cold-water species, such as black coral and bamboo coral, that live in deep water or in the icy waters off the coasts of the Aleutian Islands. Coral polyps build upon one another, eventually creating coral reefs and atolls. The red, pink, white, and blue varieties of coral are made of calcium carbonate, while black and golden corals consist of a hornlike substance called conchiolin.

 

Precious red coral (Corallium rubrum), which grows mainly in the Mediterranean, is considered an organic gem and has been treasured by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Coral is a particular favorite in Yemen, Italy, Himalayan countries, and the American Southwest. Red and pink coral are found in Japanese waters, in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the waters off Malaysia. White coral is found in Japan. Black and golden coral occur in the West Indies, Australia and around various Pacific islands.

 

More information to come…

 

 

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See Also: Coral Simulations


Tiny coral beads (about 2mm) on antique Chinese hat ornament.
Robert K. Liu

Examples of very large and very small (about 2mm) natural coral.
Robert K. Liu

Various colors of natural branch coral.
Cas Webber
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Coral Simulations

Like any valuable material, coral has been imitated throughout the ages in many materials. The distinction between fakes and simulations or replicas has more to do with the intnent to deceive than with the process or materials used in making the bead. The more realistic the reproduction, the more care and expense usually goes into it’s production and the more likely it can be used to confuse an inexperienced buyer. In some cases unsuccessful replicas can become rarer and more valuable than the original material for a serious collector. On the other hand, popular and widely accepted replicas have very little value for collectors due to their abundance. Although painted ceramic and/or stone beads have been used to copy larger coral branches, glass has been by far the most popular material used for this purpose. Coral imitations in glass range from indivdually hand-crafted powder glass versions from Ghana and wound glass beads from Nigeria to mass produced "Sherpa Coral" beads made in Czech factories and shipped to Himalayan countries. Simulated small coral branches can be quite realistic especially when several different shapes are strung together. Other simulations such as the Czech toggle beads (uniform small cylinders perforated in the middle) would not fool anyone. More recently molded plastic coral imitaitons have emerged but these lack the weight, texture, and hardness of glass which so closely mimics coral. As always, financial considerations play a role when buyers or designers choose fake over real. As an expensive organic gem, real coral is out of reach for many people in cultures where it is valued, for example Morocco, Nigeria, Nepal, and Tibet By using a simulated subtitue the general look of traditional jewelry can be preserved and perpetuated even for those who cannot afford real coral. One advantage to using simulations is that the owner doesn’t have to worry as much about loss or theft. Some women will wear fake coral for everyday necklaces, but bring out the real thing for weddings and other important celebrations.

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See Also: Coral, Sherpa Coral


Two styles of Czech coral simulations in molded glass. The beads on the lower strand are also known as toggle beads and are about 10mm in length. The upper strand with perforations at the end rather than in the middle creates a more realistic effect.
Robert K. Liu

Natural branch coral on the left and three glass simulations on the right. Short barrel at the bottom is West African, the other two are European. To varying degrees all show attempts to imitate polyp scars that appear on real coral branches. The largest
Robert K. Liu
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Cori

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See: Aggrey Beads

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Cornaline d’Aleppo

The term cornaline d’Aleppo (French for carnelian from Aleppo) was used as early as 1870 to describe beads more commonly called white hearts, which are made of glass, not carnelian, and have little to do with the Syrian city of Aleppo. They are cased glass beads, made by applying a layer of glass over a core of glass of a different color and/or type. Strictly speaking, cornaline d’Aleppo, refers to compound beads in which translucent red glass is layered over an ivory or white glass core, or sometimes an opaque yellow or even pink core—especially larger beads or beads embellished with lamp-worked eye dots or trailed floral motifs. The beads may be either drawn or wound; some have drawn cores with a wound casing. Although most are small oblates 3 to 5 mm in diameter, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including tubes, slices, ellipsoids, barrels, bicones, or spheres, ranging up to 16 mm in diameter.

 Sometimes, however, the term cornaline d’Aleppo is loosely applied to other beads of this type. The earliest, first made by the Venetians soon after they mastered the technique of making drawn glass beads, around 1490, are commonly called “green hearts” or, more rarely, “pre-white hearts.” They are always cylindrical with a thin layer of opaque brick red glass over a core of translucent dark green glass, which may appear to be black unless held up to the light.

Not until the early 1800s did the Venetians develop white hearts, when they revived the technique of making rich translucent ruby glass with gold and layered it over an opaque core. By 1860, these master glassmakers succeeded in producing pure white glass for the core, which made these beads even more luminous. During this century of innovations, industrialization shifted much of the manufacture of drawn beads to large factories. First Bohemia and then France began to make white hearts. In the 1890s selenium produced a more vivid orange-red glass, and around 1900 saffron and even blue white hearts appeared. Today white hearts are also made in India and China and come in brilliant shades of green, yellow, orange, cobalt blue, and turquoise, as well as bright red.

The name cornaline d’Aleppo probably arose from the resemblance of the ruby glass white hearts to carnelian. This highly prized reddish variety of chalcedony has been widely traded from South Asia for 5,000 years and doubtless passed through Aleppo, an important crossroads on caravan routes linking Asia, Africa, and Europe. More specifically, it has been suggested that the name refers to legendary banded stones from Aleppo that were believed to have magical powers to heal diseases of the skin.

The likeness of cornaline d’Aleppo to carnelian is more than physical. These cased glass beads have also been widely traded and highly valued. In West Africa, green hearts were bartered for palm oil, ivory, and even slaves. When white hearts were introduced, beads ranging from tiny rikiki, as small as seed beads, to large round “ox eyes were cherished for their color. In Ethiopia and Sudan, 10-12 mm beads decorated with white dots were popular. In East Africa, the Samburu favored deep red ellipsoids, which they strung on elephant tail hair. In Asia more orange colored white hearts were preferred. In the North American fur trade, cornaline d’Aleppo, known by Native Americans as Hudson Bay beads, was the medium of exchange for beaver pelts in the mid-1800s. Known as “the Spanish trading bead” in Guatemala, it was coveted as a coral substitute. Called ventimilla in Ecuador, red white hearts were often strung with silver beads and coins in multiple strands, as they were in other areas in Central and South America. Enjoying popularity worldwide, cornaline d’Aleppo became one of the most sought-after trade beads of all time. These fascinating beads can be found incorporated in traditional jewelry throughout most of Africa, in both North and South Americas, and in India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and other regions in Asia.

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See Also: Carnelian Cased Glass Beads Compound Beads Drawn Beads Green Hearts Hudson Bay Beads Ox Eyes Rikiki Samburu White Hearts Ventimilla White Hearts Wound Beads

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Cornelian

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See: Carnelian

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Cornerless Cube

A popular shape in the ancient Middle East. Shown here is an example of a carnelian cornerless cube made it Idar-Oberstein, Germany for export to Africa and the Middle East. During the colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, bead manufacturing centers in Europe sent agents to Africa to find out which beads were most highly valued. The European bead producers then made reproductions and replicas of such beads to be used in the colonial trade.

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Carnelian cornerless cube made in Idar-Oberstein for the African trade.
Robert K. Liu
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Corning Museum of Glass

Located in the historic glassmaking center of Corning, New York, The Corning Museum of Glass houses over 45,000 glass objects, including many beads, which span 3,500 years of glassmaking history. In addition, the Museum is a teaching facility, offering beginning through advanced classes in glassblowing and coldworking. At the core of the museum complex, The Rakow Research Library collects and preserves the world’s most extensive collection of books and periodicals on art and the history of glass, with publications in more than 40 languages.

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Cowrie Shell

Information to come...

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Crazy Lace Agate

Also known as Mexican agate, crazy lace agate occurs naturally in a range of soft warm tones of cream to gold and reddish brown in swirling patterns. Recently it has appeared on the market overdyed in blue, pink or deep purple. Though attractive, these dyed versions do fade in time and more quickly when exposed to strong sunlight.

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See Also: Agate

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Crimping Pliers

Crimping pliers will consistently create smooth, rounded crimps, while flat nose pliers merely crush crimp beads, leaving sharp edges. In a two-step process, crimping pliers first bends the crimp into two segments to secure the two beading wires; the second step rolls the crimp up in to a tight cylinder to ensure a good connection. Crimping pliers give jewelry a polished and professional look. See our How To section for a diagram and description of the full process.

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Crimping pliers are used to roll crimps into a neat and secure cylinder.
Cas Webber
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Crimps

Crimps, crimp beads, or crimping beads are small, usually tubular, beads of soft metal that are designed to be flattened or rolled around cable wire beading when attaching a clasp. Use chain nose pliers to flatten a crimp or crimping pliers to create a more secure and elegant roll that fastens the clasp to the cord. For complete instrucitons on how to use crimps please go to our How-To section. Crimps come in a variety of metals and finishes including sterling silver, gold filled, 14 karat gold, gold and silver plated, copper, gunmetal (black) and antique brass. Standard crimps are 2mm in diameter, but 3mm crimps are also available in a more limited range of metals. The length of crimps ranges from 2 to 4mm.

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See Also: Crimping pliers, Chain nose pliers


Crimps are small (2x2mm) tubular beads that are used to attach clasps to cable wire beading cords. See our How-To section for details.
Cas Webber
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Cross of Agadez

Information to come...

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Crumb Beads

Taking a bead that is still hot and rolling it in small pieces of broken glass is a widely used technique, seen as early as Dynastic Egypt where bits of fired faience were applied to a faience bead of contrasting color. But this decorative method saw its most common use in Islamic and Asian glass beads. More information to come...

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See Also: Crumb Beads


Antique Chinese (left) and Japanese crumb beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Cubic Zirconia

Information to come...

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Cubic Zirconia briolette shaped pendants.
Cas Webber
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Cultural Jade

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See: Jade—Pre-Columbian Greenstone or Cultural Jade

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Curb Chain

A chain made up of links that may be any shape, but all are slightly twisted so they fit together more smoothly.

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Cutters

Cutters can be any of a number of tools that are used to cut wire. They are similar to pliers in terms of their handle and joint design. Some cutters have their cutting edge on the inside of the jaw. They are used to cut stringing wire and also thicker wire. Unlike pliers, however, cutters cannot be used to grip or bend anything because of their sharp edges. They must be used in addition to other tools for jewelry making.

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Wire cutters.
Cas Webber
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Dentalium Shell

Information to come...

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Dentalium shell bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Dickey, Kay

Information to come...

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Early dichroic glass beads by contemporary glass beadmaker Kay Dickey.
Robert K. Liu
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Die

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See: Stamping

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Disk Beads

Information to come...

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Dogon Donuts

Information to come...

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See Also: Annular Beads


Examples of Dogon donut strands.
Robert K. Liu
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Don Don Sole

Information to come...

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See Also: Fulani Wedding Beads Bohemian Pressed Glass


Fulani wedding beads or "lightbulb" beads also known to African bead traders as don don sole.
Robert K. Liu
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Donkey Beads—Iranian and Egyptian Faience

Faience, the first synthetic silicate, was made almost exclusively for ornaments and amulets. It dates to the 5th millennium BC and is much older then glass, which arose about 1,500 BC. Other than the cylindrical and disk beads that are still made in Qourna, Egypt, possibly the only large faience beads being produced today are made in Qom, Iran. Known primarily to Westerners as “donkey beads,” these large, usually spherical beads are a brilliant blue. They are true faience beads, glazed by the cementation method, whereby the beads are first formed, then covered in the glazing powder and fired. Afterwards, the beads or other articles are broken free of this enveloping material. Their cores may consist of either steatite or quartz granules.

Recent photographs by German researchers have shown how such beads are made. A roll of the faience mixture is placed on a grooved board, then a matching corrugated board is pushed down on the mixture. As this tool is pulled back and forth, spherical beads are formed.

An array of faience amulets is also made by the Qom workshops. All such faience items are considered protection against the “Evil Eye,” and not only are these amulets worn by people, they are also hung on animals and vehicles.

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See Also: Amulets Faience


Contemporary Iranian and Egyptian faience donkey beads, showing the white quartz core.
Robert K. Liu
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Donut

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See: Pi

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Dorje

Information to come...

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Nepalese silver dorje with counters on a prayer strand or mala.
Robert K. Liu

Two necklaces with Himalayan dorje shaped beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Drawn Cable Chain

Chain consisting of links that are oval shaped or almost rectangular, rather than round.

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Drawn cable chain.
Cas Webber
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Drawn Glass Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Furnace Glass Beads Drawn Glass Trade Beads


Contemporary cased glass beads. Clear glass casing adds depth and luster to drawn glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Various shapes and sizes of Venetian glass trade beads made from the same or similar drawn cane.
Robert K. Liu
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Drawn Glass Trade Beads

Information to come...

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Various shapes and sizes of Venetian glass trade beads made from the same or similar drawn cane.
Robert K. Liu
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Druks

Information to come...

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See Also: Pressed Glass Beads


Pressed glass druk beads from the Czech Republic.
Robert K. Liu
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Dumortierite

Dumortierite most commonly occurs in a midnight blue shade, but can also be violet-blue or red-brown. Brazil, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Canada, Poland, France, Namibia and the United States all produce dumortierite. The dark blue tones are a nice, much less expensive alternative to lapis lazuli in jewelry making.

Dumortierite assists with memory retention. Use this stone if you are a student expected to memorize large amounts of material in a short amount of time.

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Dustin, Kathleen

Information to come...

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Fimo "Village Women" beads by Kathleen Dustin.
Robert K. Liu

Village women beads in fimo by Kathleen Dustin.
Robert K. Liu
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dZi Bead Imitations

Information to come...

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See Also: dZi Beads Pumtek Beads Etched Carnelian Beads


Imitation dZi bead with classic pattern.
Robert K. Liu

Various imitation dZi beads including a painted metal one.
Robert K. Liu
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dZi Beads

Tibetan dZi beads resulted from the combination of technology used to darken an agate or chalcedony and etching. The characteristic pattern of dZi beads is black all over with white patterned lines. True dZi beads are scarce, expensive and mysterious. No one knows exactly where and when dZi beads first originated. We can, however, determine the process used to create the unique patterns. Before the bead was blackened, the areas to be later etched were marked with a resist, such as grease, to prevent them from turning black. The technique itself dates back almost 3,500 years in India, but the oldest beads treated this way are only around 2,000 years old.

The word dZi means “shine”, “brightness”, “splendor” or “clearness”. In Chinese, they are called “heaven’s pearl”. They are prized in many Asian cultures because of their protective properties. In Tibet, small portions of the bead are sometimes dug out and ground into medicine. Broken dZi beads are believed to have diluted powers because they’ve absorbed the brunt of the force that was intended to harm the wearer.

Typically, dZi beads come in shades of brown and black with ivory white lines. The patterns consist of circles, ovals, squares, waves, zigzags, stripes, lines and diamonds. Some dZi beads have “eyes”. The number and arrangement of these circular dot patterns can signify different protective powers.

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Tibetan dZi bead with amber.
Robert K. Liu

Strands of dZi beads.
Robert K. Liu

dZi and closely related beads
Robert K. Liu
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Ear Spools—Ancient Chinese Erhtang

While glass came late to the Chinese, in the late Zhou Dynasty, they worked it with great skill at that time, especially during the Warring States Period, and they continued to do so into the Han and Tang dynasties. In the late Warring States Period, glass ear spools, or erhtang, came into use, although similar ear ornaments in stone and jet possibly preceded them. The Zhou erhtang were cylindrical or octagonal, and were flared at the bottom. They were made of plain or decorated glass, and usually had large perforations. By the succeeding Han Dynasty, these ear spools had become popular ear ornaments. The mode of wearing them, however, is not certain. Although the Han erhtang were perforated, their perforations were smaller.

The erhtang shown in the accompanying images are displayed on metal rods; they range from 1.1 to 2.2 cm in length. A single example, resembling a capstan, or spool, bead, is also shown. All are in some shade of turquoise or blue glass and are beautifully made ornaments, perhaps finished by lapidary means. Erhtang have been found in East and Southeast Asia, where they probably spread as a result of trade. There were other types of glass ear ornaments in Asia, but none with the grace of these flared beadlike Erhtang.

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See Also: Spool Beads Erhtang


Ancient Chinese glass erhtang, possilby finished by lapidary-means.
Robert K. Liu

An assortment of ancient Chinese glass erhtang, also known as capstan beads or ear spools.
Robert K. Liu
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Ebony Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Wood Beads


Ebony beads inlaid with silver.
Robert K. Liu
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Egyptian Amulets

No other ancient culture utilized amulets to the extent that the Egyptians did. Because of its funerary practices that required the use of numerous amulets and their well established stone, faience and glass industries, most amulets were made in these materials. Since faience and glass could both be molded, these labor-saving practices encouraged the making of more amulets in these two media. Usually, open-face, one-part molds were used, sometimes combined with hand-detailing. Most amulets were small, being 1.1 to 2.9 cm long, as in the illustration of the array of figural and symbolic amulets. Small size did not mean lack of refinement, as one can see in the Thoth or ibis-headed amulets, which also illustrate the phenomenon of degradation. Because of the religious importance of scarab beetles, such amulets abounded, made in many materials: stone, glass, faience and clay.

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See Also: Faience Udjat


An array of faience amulets, all molded, with some hand detailing; shown is an Apis bull, two Udjat or Eye of Horus, bicolor lotus bud, cornflower pendant, Taurt and a papyrus scepter.
Robert K. Liu

Single- and multiple scarab amulets, of clay, faience, fired steatite and hardstones.
Robert K. Liu

Two Thoth or ibis-headed amulets—one finely made, the other degraded.
Robert K. Liu
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Egyptian Glass

Information to come...

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See Also: Egyptian Glass—Date Beads Eye Beads—Ancient Egyptian Faience


Ancient Egyptian glass date beads and bicones of the Ptolemaic or Roman Period.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Ptolemaic glass from Egypt.
Robert K. Liu

 


Robert K. Liu
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Egyptian Glass—Date Beads

These ancient glass beads are popularly called date beads, because of their resemblance to the fruit of date palms. They and the striped beads of similar form and construction are probably contemporaneous; occurring as early as the Ptolemaic or the following Roman Period. They are very common in Egypt but not elsewhere.

Date beads were made from a pre-fused sheet of bi-colored glass, which was heated and wound around the mandrel. They are found in various color combinations: a cap of yellow on a green body; yellow with striped yellow and green; and yellow with yellow/brown. Some may have yet another color, a reddish brown. While quite small, date beads are very distinctive. The largest are only 1.7 cm long. Bicone beads with similar color combinations may also date from this time.

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See Also: Egyptian Glass


Ancient Egyptian glass date beads, of two colors, and bicone beads of the time.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Egyptian glass date beads of two colors, and some monochrome beads of the same period.
Robert K. Liu
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Elastic Cord

Elastic cord refers to a variety of stretchy cords that can be used for beading. The main benefit of using elastic cord is that you don’t need a clasp. The biggest drawback is that it is not as strong as other stringing materials. Using a needle can make it easier to pull elastic cord through beads. Glue can be applied to secure knots made with this cord, but you must be careful to choose a type of glue that is safe for elastic, or else the glue may eat away the cord. Making choker-style necklaces with elastic cord is not recommended because stretching it to pull the choker over your head puts too much stress on the knot. Beads strung on elastic cord must have smooth holes to avoid cutting through the cord as the beads rub against it.

Stretch Magic™ is a clear, single-strand elastic cord. It comes in several different colors, as well as black, and is available in diameters of .5mm as well as 1mm. It is one of the strongest thin elastic cords on the market.

Elastic line is a milky white cord made from several fine strands of elastic that have been bonded together. This type of cord can be stretched out further than Stretch Magic, but it is not as strong.

Fiber-covered elastic cord is much thicker and stronger than plain elastic cord. Because of its thickness, however, it is suitable for large-holed beads only.

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Elastic beading cord used for making stretchy bracelets and anklets.
Cas Webber

Stretch Magic brand elastic cord for beadstringing.
Cas Webber
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Embossing

03/02/2010 : modified

See: Stamping

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Emerald

Gem quality emeralds are rare, expensive and most often set in fine jewelry. All true emeralds have inclusions, which can cause them to easily shatter. In the case of emeralds, if it looks too perfect, it’s most likely a heat-treated beryl imitation. The earliest emerald mines opened in Egypt as early as 1300 B.C. Some of the finest emeralds found today come from Colombia. Brazil, Russia and many African countries also produce some emeralds.

Ancient Romans viewed emeralds as a symbol of fertility and of the goddess Venus.

Emeralds can bring love into your life and enhance love in your current relationships. They also keep partnerships in balance. If an emerald changes color, it can signal unfaithfulness. Emerald is the traditional birthstone for May.

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Emerald bead with pearls.
Robert K. Liu
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Enamel Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Cloisonné Beads Cloisonné Beads—Antique Chinese


Chinese enameled beads and cloisonné beads.
Robert K. Liu

Collection of contemporary Chinese enameled beads.
Robert K. Liu

North African enameled beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Engraved Beads

Information to come...

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Ancient engraved signet beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Erhtang

Ancient Chinese glass ear spools.

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See Also: Ear Spools—Ancient Chinese Erhtang Spool Beads


Assortment of ancient Chinese erhtang, to show sizes, shapes and glass colors.
Robert K. Liu
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Etched Agate Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: dZi Beads Etched Carnelian Beads


Etched carnelian, dZi and related beads.
Robert K. Liu

Dark etched beads.
Robert K. Liu

Etched carnelians close up. Includes cone shaped beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Etched Carnelian Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Etched Agate Beads Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese


Etched carnelian strands.
Robert K. Liu

Etched carnelians close up. Includes cone shaped beads.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary etched carnelian beads imitating dZi beads.
Cas Webber
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Ethiopian Cross

Some Ethiopians wear crosses that are based on Coptic Christian symbolism because many of them have practiced Christianity since the 4th century. The crosses are typically worn around the neck on a blue cotton cord called a “mateb” which is a baptism gift. Because crosses are a symbol of faith, they are one of the most prized personal possessions in the Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopian crosses feature a wide variety of styles ranging from simple crucifix shapes to more ornate designs with flared arms, trefoils (three overlapping rings), decorative projections and patterns of interwoven lines symbolizing eternity. In the 19th century, hinges and crowns became more common in the designs because of the influence of European medals. Ethiopian crosses also come in a larger version that is mounted on a staff and used in various religious processions.

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Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant.
Cas Webber
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Ethiopian Pendants

Information to come...

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See Also: Ethiopian Cross


Two small traditional Ethiopian silver amulets.
Robert K. Liu

Ethiopian brass and white metal rings.
Robert K. Liu

Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant.
Cas Webber
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Eye Agate

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See: Agate Orbicular Agate

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Eye Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Eye Beads—Ancient Egyptian Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Eye beads from the 4th-6th Century BC
Robert K. Liu

Eye beads from the Middle East and Turkey.
Robert K. Liu

Natural “eye” in a carnelian bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Eye Beads—Ancient Egyptian

Simple and stratified eyes have been used to decorate numerous types of glass beads in countless places around the world. But small eye beads of tabular shape are rare and may have been confined to Egypt or the Near East. Many are perforated through the edge of the circumference; in addition, some have loops as well. Diminutive in size, the most common color combinations are a red/blue eye on a white matrix or a red/white eye on a blue matrix, as seen in the examples shown. These date most likely to the 19th Dynasty, circa 1300 to 1200 BC. Some of these glass color combinations remained popular until Roman Egypt, and can be seen in Roman mosaic face beads of the early type.

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See Also: Egyptian Glass Eye Beads


Ancient Egyptian tabular stratified eye beads (0.4 to 0.8 cm in diameter).
Robert K. Liu
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Eye Beads—Ancient Middle East

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Various ancient Middle Eastern glass eye beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Eye Beads—Chinese

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See: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations

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Eye Beads—Composite Chinese

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See: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese

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Eye Beads—Stratified

Most eye beads are difficult to date and identify but there are some distinctive beads with stratified, paired eyes that can be usually placed to between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. They were found in the Mediterranean area and central Europe, and are made of a yellow-orange matrix, with usually four pairs of eyes, of violet blue on a white ground, and perforations as large as 1.0 cm diameter. Size range of these beads is 1.9 to 2.7 cm diameters. In some beads of the same color combinations, the eyes are stratified but not paired; they may have the same origins. Some have been found as late as the 10th century A.D. and during the 6th-7th centuries A.D., fragments of such beads were used as amulets in Europe. Currently, there are glass artists who make replicas of such stratified eye beads in both glass and polymer, with good fidelity.

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See Also: Eye Beads Eye Beads—Ancient Egyptian


Ancient stratified glass eye beads, with paired- or single eyes, some showing devitrification.
Robert K. Liu
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Eye Beads—Triangular

Triangular eye beads, among the earliest examples of glass ornaments, dating from between the 9th and 7th centuries B.C., are found in the Near East and the Aegean. Possibly due to deterioration of the glass, they usually appear to be of dark colors and often the trailed glass that formed the three eyes has fallen off, leaving merely grooves. Such glass eye beads may vary somewhat in shape or profile, but on the whole, triangular beads are rare in any material. The example shown, 2.3 cm high, is possibly from the Aegean, where they were fairly numerous.

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See Also: Eye Beads


Ancient triangular glass eye beads, Near East and Aegean, in much devitrified condition.
Robert K. Liu
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Eyepins

Short sections of wire for making earrings or pendants, characterized by a loop (eye) on one end that can be used to attach dangles or another eyepin or headpin.

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Standard two inch eyepins for making earrings and pendants.
Cas Webber
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Face Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Face Beads—Roman


Comaprisan, left to right, of Roman, Asian fake, and contemporary face beads.
Robert K. Liu

Venetian tabular glass bead from the African trade with face cane.
Robert K. Liu

Left Burmese fake with Roman tabular face bead showing Medusa.
Robert K. Liu
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Face Beads—Roman

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See Also: Face Beads


Face bead—Roman.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Roman glass face bead.
Robert K. Liu

Roman Face Beads showing Medusa in two guises.
Robert K. Liu
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Faceted Glass

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See Also: Firepolished Beads Swarovski Crystal


Examples of firepolished faceted glass (round beads) and cut crystal glass beads (bicones).
Robert K. Liu

An assortment of Swarovski crystals.
Robert K. Liu

Czech firepolish beads with iris finish.
Cas Webber
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Faience

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See Also: Donkey Beads—Iranian and Egyptian Faience Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese


Faience from various cultures.
Robert K. Liu

Various faience beads.
Robert K. Liu

Assorted ancient Egyptian faience amulets.
Robert K. Liu
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Faience Beads—Ancient Chinese

While faience was invented toward the end of the fifth millennium B.C. in the Near East, this synthetic silicate was not used for beads in China until the late Zhou Dynasty. Cylindrical and short bicone beads of pale blue faience are shown here; the bicone beads having been found strung with jade elements in long necklaces. These are 0.6 to 1.5 cm in diameters. Rare shapes include tabular beads; there are also ring beads that may be made of other Chinese silicates, like Chinese Purple. The other image shows a cache of primarily Zhou beads and ornaments of bone, stone, glass and faience, including the ones described. Included among the glass beads are those from the Warring States Period, as well as barium-rich glass ones, both unique to Chinese glass of this time. The glass earspool could be of Zhou vintage, although these became more widely used in the later Han Dynasty.

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See Also: Faience Ear Spools—Ancient Chinese Erhtang


Ancient Chinese faience beads.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Chinese faience beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Fakes

An imitation that is meant to decive, usually for profit. For example, new beads that are antiqued and sold as ancient are fakes. However, other new beads that resemble old ones may be reproductions or replicas; simulations or copies; or artists’ interpretations.

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See Also: Replicas and Reproductions Simulations and Copies Interpretations of Beads Face Beads

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Fancy Jasper

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Fancy jasper beads showing the range of natural colors in this stone.
Robert K. Liu
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Faux Amber

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See: Amber Imitations

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Feathering

.

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See: Combed Decoration


Jatim bead from Indonesia with feather design.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Indonesian glass beads with feathering.
Robert K. Liu

Three Venetian glass trade beads with feathering and one new large blue Indian glass feathered bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Feldspar

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Feldspar donuts.
Cas Webber
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Fetishes—Native American

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Figaro Chain

Chain is made up of series of links, in which a drawn-out, oval loop alternates with one or more round loops. These links usually articulate, similar to the way curb chains do, with their slightly twisted links that mesh smoothly together.

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File

Files are useful for a variety of jewelry making applications: smoothing rough edges on metal beads and finding or shaping and detailing polymer clay or PMC both before and after firing. Their small size makes them ideal for resizing bead perforations and working in other areas that are hard to get at.

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See Also: Round Your Wire Tool


Set of files for jewelry making.
Cas Webber
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Filigree

Information to come...

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Fimo

Information to come...

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See Also: Polymer Clay Dustin, Kathleen City Zen Cane Voulkos, Pier


Early Fimo beads by Ford and Forlano of City Zen Cane.
Robert K. Liu

Fimo simulations of ethnographic stone beads by Tory Hughes.
Robert K. Liu

Fimo beads by Pier Voulkos.
Robert K. Liu
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Findings

A term for the various connectors used in making earrings, necklaces, and other beaded jewelry. Findings include clasps, cones, caps, earwires, headpins, crimps, bead tips and much more.

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Cones, clasps, and fancy earparts are just a few of the items encompassed by the term "findings."
Cas Webber
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Fireline®

A pre-waxed single-ply bead thread made from gel spun and then bonded polyethylene. This bead thread is thin but one of the strongest threads available, comparable in strength to cable wire. Fireline fits beading needle sizes #10, #12, and #13. It is stretch and fray resistant, and although it is a bit stiff, it knots fairly easily. Fireline thread should be used rather than Nymo® when increased strength is needed for certain bead-weaving projects.

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spool of crystal Fireline®.

Cas Webber
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Firepolished Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Pressed Glass Beads


Contemporary Czech firepolished beads. Smallest ones also show AB finish.
Robert K. Liu

Firepolished Czech glass beads with aurora borealis finish.
Cas Webber

Czech firepolished faceted glass beads.
Cas Webber
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Fish Shaped Beads

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Contemporary Indian glass fish beads.
Robert K. Liu

Guatemalan painted wood beads.
Robert K. Liu

Indian silver fish bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Fish Vertabrae

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African fish vertebrae beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Fishhook Clasp

Traditional filigree style fishhook, often used for classic pearl and gemstone necklaces.

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Filigree style fishhook clasp.
Cas Webber
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Flex-Rite® Beading Wire

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See: Cable Wire

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Fluorite

Fluorite, also known as Fluorspar, gets its name from the Latin for “flow” or “flux”; fluorite is used as a flux in glassmaking and other processes. It in turn gives its name to fluorescence, or luminescence under ultraviolet irradiation, a phenomenon first observed in this mineral.

Chameleon of gemstones, fluorite covers the color spectrum, from clear to yellow and green, to blue and purple, to almost black, but occurs mainly in greens and purples with color zoning. It can be confused with many gemstones, and its color can be changed by radiation. Translucent to transparent, crystalline fluorite has perfect cleavage and takes a high polish.It is found mostly in Germany, England, and the US

Among fluorite’s purported healing properties is the power to cure insomnia. It is also thought to focus divergent energies, promote concentration, and develop the intellect.

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Fluorite dimes.
Cas Webber
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Foil Glass Beads

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See Also: Gold Glass


Selection of contemporary Czech foil glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Czech silver foil glass beads, close-up.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary French foil glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Folded Beads

Many of the ancient Islamic glass beads from the Middle East, which date from the 8th to 12th centuries, are of a type called folded beads, in which the right and left-hand sides appear to mirror each other. Made by a multi-step process, in which a ring of patterned glass is folded upon itself, such beads may date to the 8th-11th centuries. They are usually of barrel or tabular form, as shown in the photographs (barrel bead is 2.8 cm long). In recent times, glass artists like Tom Holland have replicated this process, as well as incorporating the technique into thoroughly modern interpretations. Jamey Allen explored the process in Fimo.

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Tabular folded Islamic bead of black/white glass.
Robert K. Liu

Barrel-shaped Islamic folded glass bead.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient folded glass bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Ford and Forlano

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See: Fimo City Zen Cane

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Fossilized Bead Materials

Information to come...

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Fox Tail

Information to come...

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Frantz, Patricia

Information to come...

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Glass beads, including dichroic, by Patricia Frantz.
Robert K. Liu
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French Bullion or French Wire

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See: Bullion

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Freshwater Pearls

Information to come...

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See Also: Pearls


Various colors and shapes of freshwater pearls.
Cas Webber

Various sizes, shapes and colors of freshwater pearls from China.
Robert K. Liu
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Frosted Glass

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Contemporary glass beads acid etched to achieve a frosted finish.
Robert K. Liu
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Fulani Wedding Beads

Most of the beads made for the colonial trade were based on prototypes that had been used earlier and were usually valued in the countries that were consumers of these trade goods. In the second image below, some multicolored glass pendants, which are known in the trade as Fulani wedding beads and are also popularly called lightbulb beads, are compared to some blue glass pendants from Mali. The basic shapes are similar, although the colors are not. The ancient beads were made by lampworking, while the modern ones were molded.

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A strand of glass beads from the Africa trade, which are widely known as Fulani wedding beads. In the savanna region of West Africa, however, they were prized by many other peoples, not just the Fulani. And they were worn to celebrate many
Robert K. Liu

Comparing 19th or 20th century Fulani wedding beads (left, c. 1.7 cm long) with ancient glass beads that have a similar lightbulb shape (1.8 to 3.1 cm long). The former were made in Europe and traded to Africa, especially to the su
Robert K. Liu

Close-up of Fulani wedding beads collected in Mali in West Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Fumed Glass

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Fumed glass beads by Zephyr Glass Studio.
Robert K. Liu

Fumed, pressed glass leaves. Contemporary American.
Robert K. Liu

Fumed glass bead from Zephyr Studio.
Robert K. Liu
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Furnace Glass Beads

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Gao Box

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Nepalese silver and coral gao box pendant.
Robert K. Liu
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Garnet

Garnet comprises several transparent to translucent silicate minerals with similar compositions but varying colors ranging from green to violet. Usually, however, the name garnet refers only to the red varieties, from a fiery orange to a deep rich wine. Among the hardest of the gemstones commonly used for beads, garnet is also used industrially in watch gears, abrasives, and scientific instruments. Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan; Austria and Czechoslovakia; Zambia and Tanzania; the US and Brazil produce most of the garnets on the world market today.

Celebrated for its curative powers, garnet has been used to reduce fever, purge body toxins, encourage blood to clot in wounds, counteract poison, cure nightmares, treat depression, and stimulate sexuality. In addition, garnets ensure success, love, and devotion. Garnet’s deep, vibrant color is seen as a symbol of fire, faith, truth, and fidelity.

More information to come...

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Indian garnet beads.
Cas Webber
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Gauge

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See: Millimeter Gauge Ring Gauge

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Genya

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See: Imitation Leather

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German Silver

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Ghanaian Gold

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See: Ashanti Gold

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Glass—Chinese

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See: Chinese Glass Beads


Blue Chinese glass wound bead often referred to as Peking glass.
Robert K. Liu
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Gold

Information to come...

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See Also: High Karat Gold Gold-Filled Ashanti Gold


Indonesian high karat gold beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Gold Glass

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Gold glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Southeast Asian gold glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Gold-Filled

Gold-filled and rolled gold refer to a process of bonding or fusing a layer of karat gold to a base metal—typically copper—and then drawing or rolling the combination into thinner wire or sheet. As long as they are well manufactured—the seams are well sealed, etc.—gold-filled articles have a very durable finish and provide a high quality, low cost alternative to solid karat gold. Gold-filled beads are described with two numbers that specify the amount of gold they contain: the karat fineness of the gold layer and the percentage of the total weight that is karat gold. A typical balance is to bond 14k gold as 20% of the total weight and this is written as “14/20 gold-filled.” If a gold-filled bead of this quality were melted down it would be assayed as 11.66% pure gold—the 58.33% of the karat gold as 50% of the entire unit.

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See Also: Vermeil Plated


Various sizes and shapes of gold-filled beads.
Cas Webber
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Goldstone

Also called aventurine glass, goldstone is neither gold nor stone, a misconception compounded by the fact that goldstone is usually sold by gem bead dealers in the standard 16-inch strands of 4-, 6-, and 8mm round beads. The original name—aventurine glass—comes from the Italian “a ventura” meaning “by chance” because it was supposedly discovered by accident in Venice. It is made by mixing particles of copper or other metals in translucent glass with the result that the glass glitters. The most common color of goldstone is coppery, but dark blue- and dark green versions also exist.

When Indian glass beadmakers began extensively copying Venetian designs in the 1980s, they also began producing goldstone to create the elaborate decorations on these lampworked beads. Then they began making goldstone beads in the usual Indian gems shapes—beans, tubes, small coins, and somewhat irregularly sized rounds—stringing them on 16" strands and selling them alongside genuine gemstone beads.

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Various shapes of goldstone beads.
Robert K. Liu

Venetian glass bead with goldstone decoration.
Robert K. Liu
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Gooseberry Beads

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Assorted antique glass gooseberry beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Granite Beads

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Granite beads from northwest Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Granulation

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See Also: Bali Beads


Granulated silver beads from Bali, Indonesia
Robert K. Liu

Silver and vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu
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Greek Beads

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See Also: Donkey Beads—Iranian and Egyptian Faience


Various shapes of contemporary Greek clay beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Green Hearts

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Various green heart beads from the African trade.
Robert K. Liu
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Greenstone Beads

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See Also: Jade—Pre-Columbian Greenstone or Cultural Jade


Pre-Columbian greenstone/cultural jade beads, mostly of metadiorite.
Robert K. Liu
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Guatemalan Silver

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Collection of small Guatemalan coin silver beads in traditional designs.
Robert K. Liu
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Guru Beads

The three-holed bead at the center of a mala or prayer strand. A tassel usually connects through the third perforation. When counting mantra repetitions, practitioners do not cross the guru bead, instead they reverse course, working their way back through the strand in the opposite direction.

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See Also: Mala Three Hole Beads


Sandalwood mala or prayer strand, showing guru bead with yellow silk tassel.
Cas Webber
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Hair Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Himalayan Hair Ornaments


Collection of silver and turquoise hair ornaments from Nepal and Tibet with one silver and coral spacer bar.
Robert K. Liu

Nepalese or Tibetan traditional hair ornament of silver and turquoise.
Robert K. Liu
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Hairpipe

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Bone hairpipe bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Hallmark

03/02/2010 : modified

See: Stamping

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Hardstone Beads

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads

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Head Pendants—Phoenician and Imitation

In antiquity, only a few types of glass ornaments bore images of the human face: rod-formed polychrome human, and also zoomorphic, Phoenician-Punic head pendants; trail-decorated head beads of the 4th to 3rd century BC; molded monochrome janiform, or double-faced, pendants; molded monochrome negroid head pendants as well as full-figure nudes in the round; and, most numerous and well-known, polychrome early and late Roman mosaic face beads.

There have been imitations and fakes of Phoenician head pendants as well as of Roman mosaic face beads. Here we show a magnificent type C III Phoenician mask pendant, circa 350 to 200 BC, where all the glass has degraded, except the curls of the hair and beard. The other glass pendant is modern. Made in Venice, it was probably acid-etched in Asia so it could be sold as an antique. Ancient head pendants were formed on a rod, leaving a large hole in the back; imitations were made on puntis and do not show this diagnostic trait.

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Ancient Phoenician head pendant, devitrified on the face and missing some of the hair curls (6.2 cm high).
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Venetian replica of a Phoenician head pendant, not meant to be a copy, but probably acid-etched in Asia to make it appear ancient.
Robert K. Liu
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Headpins

Short sections of wire for making earrings or pendants, characterized by flat head or ball on one end.

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Vermeil headpins with ball ends.
Cas Webber
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Hebron and Cairo—Contemporary Glass Beads

While Egypt and the Near East have been the source of many beautiful glass ornaments, it is not known if any are still being produced, beyond the few kiln- or furnace-wound beads shown here from Cairo and Hebron, made in the 1970s. At that time, there were at least two glass furnaces in Egypt’s capital. These transparent and translucent glass beads are fairly crude and large, with the largest disk 3.7 cm in diameter. In the past, Hebron glass beads were an important trade item, often exported to Africa. Turkey has an active furnace-wound glass industry that produces beads and amulets, some for use on animals or vehicles.

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Contemporary glass beads from Cairo and Hebron.
Robert K. Liu
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Hebron—Ancient Glass Beads

Contemporary Hebron glass beads tend to be garish; older ones used in the African trade, such as the so-called Kano beads from Nigeria, are much more attractive. Through wear, they are matt and with worn surfaces. But there are some other older Hebron beads that are both attractive and highly collectible. These are of two shapes, one a rough cylindrical bead decorated with a wavy trailing, within a register; some regard this as a stylized snake (2.68 cm tall). The dating is unclear, some claiming 4th-6th century CE, others 15th-20th, which may be more probable. Another even rarer type is a large donut, with the same wavy decoration but done with more care and of yellow/orange trailing on a black ground. This bead possibly dates even earlier.

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Rare and old Hebron cylindrical glass bead with trailed decoration.
Robert K. Liu

Rare, large donut-shaped glass bead, probably from Hebron or elsewhere in the Near East.
Robert K. Liu
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Heirloom Beads

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Heirloom beads from S.E. Asia.
Robert K. Liu
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Heishi

Information to come...

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See Also: Clamshell Disk Beads


African ostrich eggshell heishi.
Cas Webber

Vinyl heishi from the African trade.
Cas Webber
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Hematite

The name hematite comes from the Greek for “blood” because when the stone is cut the coolant runs red from iron oxide. Uniformly shiny opaque gray iron ore with a metallic luster. Hard and extremely heavy because of its iron content. Mainly sedimentary in origin, hematite also occurs in igneous rocks, especially lavas.

The shiny face of a large hematite crystal was sometimes used as a mirror in ancient times. Because of its somber color, hematite was once fashionable as mourning jewelry. Red ochre derived from hematite serves as a pigment and polishing powder.

The largest deposits are found at Lake Superior in the US, in Quebec in Canada, and in Venezuela, Brazil, and Angola. Most gemstone material comes from sites in Europe as well as Brazil, the US, and New Zealand.

Known as the “warrior stone,” in antiquity hematite was used as an amulet that inspired courage and endurance, and had the power to staunch bleeding. Thought to balance the energy patterns between one’s physical, mental, and spiritual states.

More information to come...

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Oval hematite beads.
Cas Webber
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Hemp Cord

Hemp cord is made by twining dried fibers of the hemp plant. It is used mostly for macramé. It comes in various diameters, ranging from .5mm to 2mm and sometimes larger. Choose the diameter that is most appropriate for the size of the bead perforations, bearing in mind that for macramé, several cords may have to fit through the hole of a certain bead in order to complete the design. Thus for macramé, you must also take care to choose appropriate beads.

Hemp comes in a “natural” or a polished finish. The polished kind is more uniform and fray resistant, while the natural boasts an earthy, rustic look. Untreated hemp is light brown to tan in color. It can be dyed other colors.

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Mid-weight hemp cord for macramé.
Cas Webber
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Heron Glass

Information to come...

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See Also: Chevron Beads—Contemporary


Contemporary chevron bead by Mary Mullaney of Heron Glass.
Robert K. Liu
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High Karat Gold

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Indonesian high karat gold beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Hill Tribe Silver

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See: Thai Silver


Assorted contemporary lined lacque Hill Tribe silver beads from Thailand.
Robert K. Liu

Hill Tribe silver strands including cornerless cube and woven metal designs.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Thai Hill Tribe silver pendant using traditional techniques.
Cas Webber
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Himalayan Beads

Information to come...

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Collection of classic collectible beads from the Himalayan countries of Nepal and Tibet.
Robert K. Liu
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Himalayan Hair Ornaments

Information to come...

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Collection of silver and turquoise hair ornaments from Nepal and Tibet with one silver and coral spacer bar.
Robert K. Liu

Turquoise and silver Himalayan hair ornament.
Robert K. Liu
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Hippo Teeth

“Hippo teeth” beads are large, ivory colored rectangular beads that are perforated lengthwise. Aside from their shape, they have nothing to do with actual hippo teeth. They are cut from the giant Arca clam shell. These beads come from South Africa and have recently become scarce on the market.

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Arca clam shell “hippo teeth” beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Holland, Tom

Information to come...

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Contemporary horned eye bead by Tom Holland.
Robert K. Liu
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Horn Beads

Information to come...

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Various shapes and sizes of Indian horn beads.
Cas Webber

Black and golden horn beads from India.
Robert K. Liu
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Horned Eye Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Horned eye replica by contemporary glass master Tom Holland.
Robert K. Liu
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Howlite

Howlite is named after mineralogist Henry How of Nova Scotia, who first described it in the 19th century. Chalky white with gray spots or black or brown veining, porous howlite takes dye well and is often dyed blue to imitate turquoise, lapis or othe more valuable stones.

Main sources include Canada and California, where it typically occurs as rounded white nodules resembling unglazed porcelain.

Thought to aid in mineral absorption. Promotes empathy, kindness, and friendship.

More information to come...

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Hughes, Tory

Information to come...

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See Also: Polymer Clay

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Idar-Oberstein

Information to come...

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Cornerless cube from Idar-Oberstein traded to Africa.
Robert K. Liu

An array of classic Idar-Oberstein carnelian and agate beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Imitation Leather

Imitation leather cord is available in a variety of different brands for those who don’t want to use genuine leather.

Genya is rubber-coated nylon that has the look and feel of real leather, but at a lower cost. It has high tensile strength and does not fade.

P’Leather® is manufactured from specially blended polymers to look and feel like leather. Unlike real leather, however, P’Leather will not crack, weather, or smell. P’Leather cord can be crimped with standard findings for joining cord, without breaking or tearing.

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Imitation leather cording for beadstringing.
Cas Webber

P’leather brand imitation leather for bead stringing.
Cas Webber
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Imitation Sinew

This waxed polyester cord comes in light beige, brown, black and sometimes, other colors. One of the few beading cords available in the early 1970s, it worked well enough for large-holed African trade beads and chunky clay beads. Today the much more durable cable wire takes its place for most heavy necklaces. This cord’s drawbacks include low resistance to fraying, tendency to stretch and sometimes, excessive wax but it remains popular for some traditional Native American designs and among “mountain men” creating authentic costumes. Imitation sinew can be split or doubled to get different diameter cords.

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Impressing

03/02/2010 : modified

See: Stamping

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Indian Glass Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Luster Finish Lampworked Beads Mosaic Beads


Indian reproductions of famous Venetian trade beads.
Robert K. Liu

Indian lustered beads.
Robert K. Liu

Indian chevron beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Indian Organic Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Horn Beads Bone Beads


Indian black and golden horn beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Indian Silver Beads

Information to come...

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Indian silver beads with gold wash.
Robert K. Liu

Indian sterling silver beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Indo-Pacific Beads

Information to come...

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Indo-Pacific beads in assorted colors.
Robert K. Liu

Strand of Indo-Pacific beads from the African trade mixed with red jasper and green heart beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Indonesian Lampworked Beads

Indonesia boasts an ancient tradition of glass beadmaking and trading. The story is a complicated one with ancient imports of glass beads from China, the Muslim world and even Europe showing up in Indonesian excavations. In addition, local beadmaking industries flourished to feed the twin demands of beads for local use and for export. See East Javanese Beads.

During the 1970s ancient Indonesian beads began appearing in local markets, especially in Java, and were eagerly bought by foreign collectors. To the distress of local and international archeologists, sites were being looted to supply these beads. As supplies diminished and prices rose a new industry of contemporary Indonesian glass beads emerged to fill the void. Bali and Java seem to be the main sources of many of the new lampworked glass beads like those shown here, which began appearing in the early 1980’s.

According to Adhyatman and Arifin, the authors of Manik-Manik, contemporary beadmaking started in Solo, Central Java around 1970 when a glassworker from Pakistan who made lamps, necklaces and glass inserts for rings taught a few local apprentices. The craft spread to Plumbon Gambang and Jombang in East Java where the art of copying Indian replicas of European trade beads evolved into a cottage industry for Indonesian lampworked beads. These include reproductions of ancient Indonesian round and melon beads as well as new designs incorporating trailed, combed, feathered, flush and raised dot patterns, as well as crumb designs in a variety of shapes and sizes. New designs tend to feature a glossy surface while those meant to resemble the older beads are etched or abraded to create a more or less matte finish.

Replicas of ancient Jatim and other East Javanese Beads, can be distinguished from the originals by their brighter colors, roughly sandblasted surfaces, and larger perforations—sometimes with bead release still clinging to the inside. Copies of ancient Bird Beads appeared in Java in 1991 where new beadmakers also embraced lapidary techniques to reproduce ancient rock crystal beads in recycled glass.

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See Also: Feathering Melon Beads Crumb Beads Bird Beads


Indonesian lampworked beads.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Indonesian lampworked glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Indonesian Metal

Information to come...

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Complex Indonesian cube beads.
Robert K. Liu

Indonesian high karat gold beads
Robert K. Liu
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Indonesian Recycled Glass Beads

Lapidary (stoneworking) techniques have a long history in Indonesia. Stone beads dating from Neolithic times (2500-1000 BC) have been found near Solo, Central Java and the tradition continues. Sandstone and jasper beads were popular in the 1980s but more recently lapidary techniques have been applied to glass. The process seems to have begun with grinding to modify the shape of some ancient glass beads.

Recycling glass beads in Indonesia also started with ancient beads. Some less desirable older beads were melted down to make new beads, some broken beads were combined with each other, plain ancient beads were decorated with melted down Japanese seed beads etc.

As local Javanese legend has it, the business of recycled glass really got going when the local Coca Cola factory switched from bottles to cans. Suddenly an immense quantity of glass, that had formerly been reused, was available and it was just the right color to copy some ancient faceted crystal beads. Lapidary skills of cutting, grinding and perforating slabs of stone were applied to slabs of glass to make heavy bicones with typically five to six facets on each side. As these beads gained popularity in the US the range of sizes and shapes expanded greatly. Colors also became more diverse with reports of green being from wine bottles, amber from beer bottles, pale blue-gray from television screens, and seafoam green and clear being from the Coke bottles and architectural glass.

The beads are drilled from both ends as if they were stone, hand faceted and polished to a matte or shiny finish. The beads shown range in size from about 15 to 30mm in length.

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Collection of Indonesian lapidary worked beads showing the range of shapes and colors in recycled glass beads made from bottle glass, architectural glass and possibly TV screens.
Robert K. Liu

The bead on the left is an ancient Indonesian glass bead. The replica on the right is contemporary made of recycled glass with lapidary techniques.
Robert K. Liu
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Inlaid Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Inlaid Beads—Wood


Nepalese beads: silver and lac base with turquoise inlay.
Robert K. Liu
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Inlaid Beads—Wood

Inlaid wood beads are uncommon. Simple wood beads were once often used in rosaries, and today they are still produced in Germany, the Philippines, and other countries. Inlaid wood beads, however, are rare because they are so labor intensive. This elaborate wood bead from Cairo, which is inlaid with wood and mother-of-pearl, was purchased in the late 1970s. The same technique has long been employed to make boxes and furniture in Lebanon and Syria as well as in Egypt.

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Contemporary Egyptian wood bicone bead inlaid with mother-of-pearl and wood (4.5cm long).
Robert K. Liu

Ebony beads inlaid with silver from the Arabian Peninsula.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary inlaid wood beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Inside Painted Beads

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Chinese glass beads painted inside.
Robert K. Liu
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Intaglio

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See: Stamping

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Interpretations of Beads

Artists’ interpretations of beads are not designed to deceive. They often originate as a creative response to the beauty of the original beads, for examples Kiffa beads or Chinese Warring States eye beads or as an exploration of techniques used to in the originals. For example, Tom Holland demonstrated that horned eye beads could be made without preformed components while Jamey Allen explored how how folded glass beads were made by using Fimo. So many Fimo artists experimented with mosaic cane techniques that even most school children can now understand how Venetian glass mosaic trade beads were made.

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See Also: Fakes Replicas and Reproductions Simulations and Copies Holland, Tom Hughes, Tory Dustin, Kathleen

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Iolite

The name iolite comes from the stone’s violet color. You may sometimes hear this stone referred to as water sapphire. The most important iolite deposits occur in Brazil, Madagascar, Burma, India and Sri Lanka.

Iolite works for people embarking on an inner journey. Emotionally, iolite releases discord within relationships and helps to overcome codependency. Iolite also aids in understanding and letting go of the causes of addictions.

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Strand of faceted iolite rondels.

Cas Webber
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Irian Jaya Melon Beads

Information to come...

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Yellow melon bead from Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu
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Iridescent

Information to come...

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Iris Finish

Iris finish is often applied to beads to give them an iridescent “oil-slick” appearance. Opaque glass (usually black) beads are coated with a lacquer containing metal particles, which is then burned off. There are only five true iris colors: purple, blue, green, brown and gold, the latter being less common and more expensive. Iris finish is completely durable under normal circumstances.

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See Also: AB Finish Luster Finish


Czech glass firepolished beads with iris finish.
Cas Webber

Czech firepolish beads with iris finish.
Cas Webber
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Islamic Glass

Information to come...

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Red and black ancient Islamic glass bead.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Islamic folded glass bead.
Robert K. Liu
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Jade

Jade is derived from the Spanish piedra de ijada, meaning “hip” stone. The term dates from the Spanish conquest in Central and South America, when the invaders believed that amulets made from the green stones so esteemed by the native peoples could cure and protect against kidney diseases. This popular name is widely used to refer to nephrite as well as jadeite. Both of these stones are hard and fine-grained—and are difficult to distinguish. Only in 1863 was it scientifically determined that they are actually two different minerals. Nephrite is fibrous in structure, whereas jadeite is made up of interlocking granular crystals. Both stones are so tough they cannot be “carved,” strictly speaking, but must be cut by abrasion; in ancient times they were ground with quartz sand as the abrasive, but today carborundum or diamond dust is used.

Nephrite from China’s western border area has been worked into ornaments, implements, and ritual objects by the Chinese for thousands of years. It has a greasy luster and, for the most part, ranges in color from dark green to creamy white and has a greasy luster, but nephrite also occurs in yellowish, reddish, or brownish tones. It may be uniform in color, or blotchy, streaky, or banded.

Although revered since prehistoric times, in the late 18th century nephrite was superseded in popularity in China by jadeite from Burma. Today Chinese nephrite is still used for beads and inexpensive ornaments, but sources have become depleted, and Burmese jade is costly. So to fill a burgeoning worldwide demand for jade jewelry and decorative objects, the Chinese gemstone industry turned elsewhere for raw material, most notably to Canada for nephrite that is mined in British Columbia. This and other North American sources were exploited by early Native Americans (especially the Salish and the Inuit) to make tools, weapons, and, ornaments.

Nephrite found in New Zealand has been worked into weapons and ornaments by the Maori since about ad 1000. Their interest in carving waned, however, as they adopted Western culture at the end of the 19th century. German stone-cutters in Idar-Oberstein seized this opportunity to import New Zealand nephrite and carve it in Maori designs, such as tiki, which are small images of the primordial Maori ancestor that were traditionally worn round the neck as a talisman. Between 1896 and 1914 German entrepreneurs shipped more than a million nephrite tiki pendants back to New Zealand for sale as local souvenirs. In today’s global village, traditional Maori designs are being carved from Canadian jade by Chinese craftsmen, while stunning contemporary designs are being crafted in New Zealand by native and non-native artists from both local and imported jade. Other commercial deposits of nephrite are mined in Australia and Central Asia.

Jadeite from Burma is the most highly prized jade today, by both Chinese and Western collectors. It occurs in a wide range of colors: green, yellow, white, blue, lavender, pink, orange, red, brown, and black. Jadeite has a more vitreous, or glassy, luster than nephrite. The most expensive variety, known as “imperial jade,” is a rich, translucent emerald green.

The green stone that was so highly valued by the native peoples of Mesoamerica, and subsequently by the Spanish conquistadores, was mostly a form of jadeite found mainly in Guatemala, with less important deposits in Mexico and California. It ranges from dark green, bluish-green, and black to variegated light gray-green and white. Thanks to gemological advances, we now know that some of those pre-Columbian “jade” artifacts are not jade at all, neither jadeite nor nephrite. They were exquisitely crafted from a variety of virtually anonymous green stones, dubbed “social jade” by archaeologists, because they were just as prized as the real thing. Value as well as beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.

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See Also: Jade Simulants


Green jade beads.
Cas Webber

Canadian nephrite jade beads.
Cas Webber
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Jade Simulants

Jade simulants, both natural and imitation look-alikes, abound. When something is beautiful and highly valued, the popularity of less expensive substitutes is not surprising. At BEADAZZLED we take care not to misrepresent these, but we are not expert gemologists, and often we must rely on our suppliers for accurate information. Below are the more common jade simulants, and, in parentheses, some common names for them, which may be misleading for novices. Buyers should be wary of double names applied to gemstones—they frequently indicate imitations.!
amazonite (Amazon jade)
aventurine (Indian jade)
beryl, green and not transparent
bowenite, a variety of serpentine (new jade; Suzhou jade)
calcite, often dyed (Mexican jade)
chrysoprase (Queensland jade)
fluorite, green
glass, carved and devitrified
grossularite (African jade; garnet jade)

jasper (Oregon jade, Swiss jade)

malachite

serpentine (Korean jade)
soapstone, steatite, or talc (Shanghai jade)

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See Also: Jade


New Jade donuts.
Cas Webber
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Jade—Pre-Columbian Greenstone Or Cultural Jade

In the pre-Columbian cultures of north and central America, jade beads were as important as they were in China. In both cultures, there were many jade substitutes or cultural jades; in the pre-Columbian Americas, such social or cultural jades were as acceptable as the real jadeite beads (there was no nephrite jade used). These substitutes included albite/albitite, bowenite/serpentine and steatite, as well as others. The most common stone used as a jade substitute was metadiorite, usually a mottled, large-grained greenish granitic rock. Sometimes the beads were large , but rarely matched the dimensions seen on necklaces modeled on Mayan clay effigies from the burial island of Jaina. The beads shown range from 1.1 to 2.8 cm diameters; some may be of real jadeite. Metadiorite perforated ornaments were most common in Guerrero, Mexico. Besides beads, earflares were also made of metadiorite, sometimes mistaken or used as beads in contemporary contexts.

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See Also: Jade


Pre-Columbian greenstone, or cultural jade, beads, mostly of metadiorite ranging from 1.1cm to 2.8 cm.
Robert K. Liu
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Jadeite

Information to come...

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See Also: Jade

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Japanese Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Asao, Kyoyu


Kyoyu Asao’s interpretation of an Edo Period glass bead or ojime (1.9cm high).
Robert K. Liu
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Jasper

Jasper’s name comes from the Greek for “spotted stone.” The red variety of jasper, a microcrystalline quartz, is a uniform opaque brick-red. The spotted variety, called leopardskin jasper, displays mottled patches of swirling black and brown, gray and cream, apricot, rusty red, and even green. Picture jasper arranges similar colors in flowing stripes to create a landscape that resembles a sand-painting. Other varieties include yellow jasper and mottled red poppy jasper. Hard and dense, jasper has a granular structure consisting of minute interlocking quartz crystals visible only at high magnification.

A very tough stone, jasper was often used to drill agate in the ancient world, and even today it is used to make hones and whetstones. It takes a high polish, and jasper is a popular material not only for jewelry, but for carvings, mosaics, and inlay work.

Jasper is found worldwide especially in India, Russia, the US, France, Germany, England.

Sometimes called the “survival stone,” jasper is thought to improve vision and protect against unseen dangers at night. Jasper has also been used to divine water and avert drought. In American Indian lore it was known as the “rain bringer.”

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Picture Jasper.
Cas Webber

Ocean Jasper.
Cas Webber
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Jatim Beads

Jatim beads come from far eastern Java, Indonesia. Dating for Jatim beads remains difficult because of the lack of examples from various excavation sites. They appear in sites ranging from Egypt to Japan which suggests limited trade use during the first millennium.

Jatim beads came on the market in the mid-1980’s. The four main designs for jatim beads are eye beads, mosaic beads and rainbow beads.

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All the Jatim in this image are ancient and genuine. They range from 1.75 to 2.15 cm tall.
Robert K. Liu

Jatim beads and East Javanese striped beads.
Robert K. Liu

Fake Jatim beads made about 1995 (upper left is 1.7cm tall) vs an ancient bead at upper right, 1.8cm high. On the bottom are two halves of a broken ancient Jatim to show the thin crust of moasic glass over a green core (1.9cm tall).
Robert K. Liu
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Jatim Replicas

Constructed with a unique technique, ancient Jatim mosaic beads are hot-pinched or segmented. Unlike other mosaic beads, in which the mosaic patterns reach the perforation, Jatim beads only have a thin layer of mosaic glass. They may date from 600 to 700 AD but confirming research is still being undertaken. Probably from East Java, reproductions have been made almost from the time such beads reached Eastern and Western collectors. In a very short period of time, the imitations have gotten so good it is often difficult to differentiate between them and the prototypes. Both the actual ancient beads and their contemporary imitations may be made in Jember.

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All the Jatim beads in this image are ancient and genuine, ranging from 1.75 to 2.15 cm high. Some Jatim beads are monochrome, often yellow or green.
Robert K. Liu

Three fake Jatim beads: the front and middle made about 1995; the large one in rear about five years earlier (2.37 cm high). Note vast improvement in five years.
Robert K. Liu

Fake Jatim made about 1995 (upper left, 1.7 cm high) vs ancient one (upper right, 1.8 cm high). On the bottom are the two halves of an actual broken Jatim, to show the thin crust of mosaic glass over a green core, 1.9 cm hi
Robert K. Liu
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Jet

Information to come...

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Carved jet beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Jump Rings

Information to come...

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Silver jump rings.
Cas Webber
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Karat

A measure of the purity of gold. 24 karat gold is 100% gold. 18 karat gold is 75% gold or 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals such as silver and copper. 12 karat gold is only 50% gold, or 12 parts gold and 12 parts other metals.

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Kennedy, Mary

Information to come...

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See Also: Art Glass Beads


Art Glass bead by Hawaii contemporary glass beadmaker Mary Kennedy.
Robert K. Liu
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Khambhat

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See: Cambay

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Kidney wires

Information to come...

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Kidney style earwires.
Cas Webber
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Kiffa Beads

Kiffa beads derive their name from the town in Mauritania where women make them. To make these powder glass beads, a core is formed by mixing glass with a binder, such as sugar, gum arabic or even saliva. Powdered glass is painstakingly added to the core in intricate patterns and the whole thing is then fired. Sometimes a plain European bead is used as the core and sometimes the patterning copies that of fancier European beads. The striking designs of some of these small beads have made them very desirable and expensive.

Because of the intricate patterns, complicated process and lack of high-tech beadmaking equipment, the women of Kiffa can only make 2 to 4 beads in a day. The techniques used to make these powder glass beads are around 1,000 years old and are probably still done in much the same manner. After the core is made and the pattern is set, the beads are fired on a piece of broken pottery covered with a used tin can. The firing process itself only takes about 45 minutes.

The beadmaking industry in Kiffa declined in the 1980’s, but Western interest allowed some women to take up the work again. Many of the newer beads are not as well designed as the earlier beads, but they still take considerable skill to make. Kiffa beads are one of the few beads used in Africa that are actually made in Africa. They are also unique because they are made by women in a typically male field.

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See Also: Powder Glass Beads


Classic strand of Mauritanian kiffa beads.
Robert K. Liu

Traditional kiffa bead shapes.
Robert K. Liu

Authentic Mauritanian kiffa bead; contemporary glass kiffa reproduction; Fimo polymer clay kiffa reproduction.
Robert K. Liu
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Knotting Tool

A knotting tool helps you create secure, uniform knots. It is especially useful in stringing pearls and other types of beads when you want to place a knot between each bead. This tool has a sharp point similar to an awl and a V-shaped notch to guide the thread.

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Kori

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See: Aggrey Beads

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Kreitter, Keith

Information to come...

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Two pendants by contemporary glass beadmaker, Keith Kreitter.
Robert K. Liu

Classic Keith Kreitter universe pendant.
Cas Webber
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Krobo Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Adjagba Beads Akoso Beads Bauxite Beads Bodom Beads Powder Glass Beads

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Kyanite

Information to come...

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Flat oval kyanite beads.
Cas Webber
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Labradorite

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Labradorite rondels.
Cas Webber
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Lampworked Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Indonesian Lampworked Beads—New


Selection of Venetian lampworked beads from the African trade.
Robert K. Liu

Fancy Venetian lampworked beads made more for the European market.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary lampworked beads by Kristen Frantzen Orr.
Robert K. Liu
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Lapidary-Worked Glass

With the long history of jade and other hardstone carving in China, it is not unexpected that this lapidary technique was extended to glass, especially in the Qing Dynasty. Because of the large numbers of court or mandarin necklaces, there were many glass substitutes for precious stones, like pale blue glass for aquamarine. The trans-illuminated tabular glass counterweight has an eternal knot cut into both sides, by a series of drilled holes and connected wheel-cut slots. Such beads have a maximum width of 4.5 cm. The next image shows a balustrade bead, strung with a spherical bead drilled in two axes, so that the long counterweighted portion of the court necklace could hang down at a right angle to the rest of the necklace, down the court official’s back. These two components have been similarly lapidary-worked. The last image shows some similar glass court necklace elements loose, removed from the elaborated neckware; all are lapidary-worked.

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See Also: Mandarin Court Necklace Beads


Indonesian lapidary worked recycled glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

A balustrade bead, strung with a spherical bead drilled in two axes, so that the long counterweighted portion of the court necklace could hang down the court official’s back.
Robert K. Liu

Glass court necklace elements removed from the elaborate neckwear; all are lapidary-worked.
Robert K. Liu
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Lapis Lazuli

The rich royal blue in lapis lazuli, caused by sulphur, is sprinkled with glittering flecks of iron pyrite, or fool’s gold. Fine lapis from the Hindu Kush may have a violet cast; paler hues from the Andes are less desirable. White or grayish calcite veining often decreases the value of Andean and Siberian varieties.

One of the most precious commodities of the ancient world, lapis from the mountains of Afghanistan was among the grave treasures found in the tomb of Queen Pu-abi of Sumer and in the pyramid of Pharaoh Tutankhamen of Egypt. As a symbol of power and royalty, lapis was a favorite stone of Cleopatra. Not to be outdone, Catherine the Great of Russia paneled whole rooms in the imperial palace with slabs of lapis. The stone’s intense blue led Roman matrons to use crushed lapis in cosmetics and medieval monks to use it to illuminate their manuscripts.

Still highly prized, efforts never cease to enhance or imitate lapis: White spots may be touched up, pale lapis darkened, and other stones dyed with Prussian blue. Synthetic stones and glass colored with cobalt have even been seeded with gold flakes to simulate pyrite inclusions.

The best deposits are in Afghanistan, where it has been mined for more than 6000 years. Also found in Russia and Chile, with small deposits in the US, Burma, Angola, and Pakistan.

Lapis lazuli brings friendship, love, success, and divine favor. The golden flecks seen in some stones are said to represent wisdom gained in the journey through darkness in search of inner light. In ancient Egypt, lapis was thought to guide the passage of the soul into the afterlife.

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Ancient melon shaped lapis lazuli bead.
Robert K. Liu

Hand cut lapis beads from Afghanistan.
Cas Webber

Lapis Lazuli beads.
Cas Webber
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Latticino

Information to come...

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Twisted stringers sometimes called latticino used to make glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Leather

Leather cord comes in .5mm, 1mm, 1.8mm, and 2mm sizes, which makes it good for large-holed beads and pendants.

Indian leather cord, usually made from cowhide, comes in a variety of colors and sizes. Greek goat leather cording is the highest quality leather beading cord on the market. Known for its smooth finish, consistent color, and supple texture.

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See Also: Suede Lace


Black, brown, and natural Greek leather.
Cas Webber
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Leech Beads

The leech bead and associated ornaments are indicators of the importance of the Indian lapidary industry, long distance trade and possible technological influences in antiquity. Named by bead researcher Horace Beck for the leech-shaped glass, stone and amber or ivory decorations on the curved parts of European metal fibulae of the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, the classic stone leech bead, sometimes called a bow-shaped bead or pendant, is easily recognizable but little known. Dating back to perhaps 2200 BCE from Ur, there are derivatives that have been found recently in Thailand (called notched agate pendants), the latest ca. 200 CE, as well as fakes and replicas from Asia that have come into the marketplace in the late 20th century. The prototypes are likely Indian made and primarily of agate, rarely in carnelian. From Zhou China is found a variant that is thicker and less graceful than the classic leech bead, and resembles similar ones from Taxila, India. Replicas and fakes exist in both stones, but often with stone and etched decoration combinations never found in the originals.

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads


Comparison of three thin, classic leech beads or pendants from Afghanistan or Iran; these are made so thin that the perforations are visible, 2.0 to 3.5 cm wide.
Robert K. Liu

Comparison of thick Zhou Dynasty leech bead with classic, thin type from the Middle East, 3.5 cm wide.
Robert K. Liu

An assortment of agate/carnelian tabular, cylindrical and leech beads from the Middle East, showing their beauty and elegance of crafting.
Robert K. Liu
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Lenticular

Information to come...

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads


Lenticular shaped hardstone beads, named for the shape of their cross-section.
Robert K. Liu

Lenticular bead in agate.
Robert K. Liu
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Lentil

Lentils are lens-shaped beads with the perforation at a slight angle so that it enters on one side of the bead near the edge and exits on the other. This was presumably first done because attempting to drill the hole directly through the bead would cause the edge to chip and break, but it produces the interesting effect that these flat beads overlap.

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Leverback Earwires

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Leverback earwires.
Cas Webber
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Lightbulbs, Triangles, and Claws

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See: Fulani Wedding Beads


Vintage Bohemian molded lightbulb-shaped beads from the African trade with claw-shaped beads at center of strand.
Robert K. Liu

Close-up of lightbulb beads showing texture on some.
Robert K. Liu

Comparing 19th or 20th century lightbulb beads (left, c. 1.7 cm long), with ancient glass beads of similar shape (1.8 to 3.1 cm long). The former beads, which are also known as Fulani wedding beads, were made in Europe and
Robert K. Liu
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Lobster Claw Clasp

Similar in shape to a lobster’s claw, these clasps come in a wide range of sizes and metals. A spring-loaded latch operated by a lever opens and closes these secure clasps (also known as trigger clasps) making them suitable for bracelets and anklets as well as necklaces.

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Sterling silver lobster claw style clasp.
Cas Webber
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Long-and-Short Chain

Long-and-short chain is similar in pattern to figaro chain with one drawn-out oval loop followed by one or a series of smaller round loops. The difference is that these round loops are not twisted, but are simply linked, like a cable chain.

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Loom

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See: Bead Loom

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Lost-Wax Casting in Africa

The Baoulé people of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa are members of the Akan group that also includes the Ashanti. The Akan have used the lost-wax, or cire-perdue, casting method for centuries. Their first ornaments were probably made of locally mined gold. Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, was first brought across the Sahara by Arab camel caravans and later to West African ports by European trading ships. Today beads and ornaments are still made by this ancient method in Ghana and the Ivory Coast—in gold for chiefs and other important persons, and in brass (often erroneously called bronze) for more humble bead-lovers in Africa and abroad. To make a bead or pendant, the craftsman first makes a model from beeswax, usually forming it from thin wax threads. Besides spherical beads and bicones, popular designs include disks, rectangles, and other geometric shapes, as well as human masks and animal motifs. The beadmaker coats the model with a slurry of fine clay and charcoal and then envelops it in coarser clay. When making small beads, he may encase several models in this thick clay mold. When the mold is heated, the melted wax drains out though openings left for this purpose (sprues), and molten brass is poured into the resulting cavity. After it cools, the mold is broken to free the casting, rough spots are filed down, and the ornament is polished with fine sand and lemon juice or a grinding wheel, if the maker can afford one. Brass beads may be given a gold wash for a more brilliant finish, or polished with black wax for an antique look. Unlike other types of casting, the lost-wax method insures that every bead is a unique original because once the mold is broken open it can’t be reused.

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See Also: Ashanti Gold Baoulé Brass


Ghanaian gold-washed lost-wax cast beads.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary lost wax cast beads from Ghana.
Cas Webber

Lost-wax cast beads that have been ground and polished to a smooth surface.
Cas Webber
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Luster Finish

Information to come...

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Contemporary Indian glass beads with luster finish.
Robert K. Liu
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Magatama

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Robert K. Liu

Magatama or, comma-shaped, beads.
Robert K. Liu

Korean magatama beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Maher, Bruce St. John

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Majapahit Beads

Majapahit beads were first produced around 900 AD in Eastern and Central Java. One popular technique for making majapahit beads includes the application of cane glass chips in a mosaic pattern similar to that used for the later Venetian millefiori beads. Another technique involves feathering by trailing a tool through glass stripes while the bead is still molten. Bird beads are one of the best-known beads in this category, though they have been copied using other techniques and materials. Majapahit beads show the influence of Roman and Middle Eastern beads from before 700 AD.

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See Also: Jatim Beads


A collection of majapahit or jatim beads from Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu

Real and replica bird beads from Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu

Majapahit bead with feathered design.
Robert K. Liu
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Mala

Information to come...

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See Also: Guru Beads


Tibetan prayer strand with dorje.
Robert K. Liu

Mala or prayer strand with carnelian counters and lotus beads.
Robert K. Liu

Closeup of sandalwood mala with three-holed "guru" bead.
Cas Webber
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Malachite

Malachite comes from the Greek for “mallow,” alluding to the color of the plant’s leaf. Marked by varying shades of vivid emerald to deep rich green in swirling concentric rings or parallel lines, malachite is opaque and soft, but takes on a silky luster when polished and is easy to carve. Formed from copper-containing solutions in or near copper ore deposits, malachite is sometimes intergrown with azurite, turquoise, or chrysocolla.

Malachite was popular in the ancient world carved into amulets and ornaments, and powdered for eye shadow. The Russian czars made lavish use of malachite in paneled walls and inlaid furniture.

Zaire, the former USSR, Australia, the US, and southern Africa account for most of the world’s malachite deposits.

Believed to draw out pain, malachite was valued as an all-purpose healing stone. In particular, it was thought to cure stocmach and circulatory disorders, and promote sound sleep and clear vision. Stones with eye markings served as a third eye to deflect evil. Malachite amulets were favored for small children, in particular, to protect them from witches and other dangers.

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Malachite beads from Zaire in Africa.
Robert K. Liu

Round malachite beads.
Cas Webber
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Mandarin Court Necklace Beads

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Lapidary worked glass components for Chinese Mandarin court necklace.
Robert K. Liu
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Mandrel

Mandrels are cones, cylinders, cubes, or other forms that serve as cores around which wire can be wrapped, bent, or otherwise shaped to create a precise size or design.

Ring mandrels are tapered rods marked with ring sizes, which can be used for wrapping wire to make rings or simply for measuring rings. When you slide a ring on the mandrel, the point at which it stops will tell you its size. To make a ring of a certain size, wrap your wire around the mandrel where the desired size is marked. Rather than being smooth cones, some ring mandrels have graduated steps that keep your loops uniform when you’re making several of the same size. Ring mandrels can also be used to remove dents from or straighten bent rings. Bracelet mandrels are similarly used for making metal bracelets as well as for shaping or removing dents and kinks on bangles or bracelets made of malleable metals. Their smooth tapered shape allows for bracelets of various sizes. Stainless steel bracelet mandrels are helpful when forming glass bracelets and bangles. Various other mandrels, with or without markings, can be used for general all-purpose wire wrapping.

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Ring mandrels for shaping and sizing rings.
Cas Webber
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Marble Beads

Information to come...

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Beads made of colored swirls of glass cased in clear glass like classic marbles.
Robert K. Liu

Marble beads collected in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Strung for local use.
Robert K. Liu

Glass marble beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Marvering

Information to come...

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Mauritanean Beads

Information to come...

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Antique silver beads from Mauritania in northwest Africa.
Robert K. Liu

Mauritanian bead, probably copal, showing careful and decorative repair.
Robert K. Liu

Kiffa bead, probably Mauritania’s most famous contribution to the history of beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Meerschaum Beads

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Carved meerschaum beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Melon Beads

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Glass melon bead.
Robert K. Liu

Two Indian or Nepalese silver melon beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Memory Wire

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See: Spring Wire

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Merovignian Beads

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Ancient. Merovignian glass beads from Europe.
Robert K. Liu
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Metal Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Silver Gold Gold-Filled Thai Silver Bali Beads Indian Silver Beads


American-made metal beads.
Robert K. Liu

African metal beads in brass, copper and white metal.
Cas Webber

Balinese silver beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Metalized Beads

Plastic beads that have been plated with metal and coated with an anti-tarnish finish. These lightweight and inexpensive beads are popular for affordable and fashionable necklaces. Often designs mimic popular bead Indian, African or Asian metal bead shapes and patterns at a fraction of the price. Antiquing adds interest to metalized beads with patterns. The finish on these beads made in the USA is very durable providing good value. Imports, however, can sometimes flake and peel.

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Bright finish metalized beads.
Cas Webber

The largest beads in this photo are antique finish metalized plastic beads.
Cas Webber
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Millefiori Beads

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Old Venetian trade bead with millefiori decoration on the ends.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Venetian glass beads using millefiori decoration.
Robert K. Liu

Vintage Venetian tabular Millefiori beads
Robert K. Liu
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Millimeter Gauge

A millimeter gauge measures the exact size of beads in millimeters. The best gauges are solidly made of well-tooled brass, so one part remains firm and fixed, while the other part slides smoothly. To obtain an accurate measurement, place a bead between the gauge’s two jaws, slide the two parts so the jaws close on the bead, then read the size from the millimeter scale.

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Brass millimeter gauge.
Cas Webber
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Miracle Beads

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Miracle beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Molded Glass Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Pressed Glass Beads Druks Firepolished Beads


Molded glass lightbulb beads made in Europe for the African trade.
Robert K. Liu

Vintage Czech molded glass with Egyptian themes.
Robert K. Liu

Molded European glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Moonstone

Moonstone has a blue-white sheen that is reminiscent of the changing colors of the moon in the night sky. Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the United States account for most of the world’s production. The Celts and the Romans liked to wear moonstone set in rings, brooches or pendants. The Art Nouveau period reintroduced the use of moonstone in jewelry making.

Europeans believed that moonstone could reconcile estranged lovers and cure sleeplessness. Moonstone powerfully affects the female reproductive cycle. It helps with PMS, conception, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

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White moonstone beads.
Cas Webber
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Mosaic Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Millefiori Beads Face Beads—Roman Venetian Trade Beads Mosaic Beads—Roman


Shell mosaic bead from Philippines.
Robert K. Liu

Fimo mosaic beads by City Zen Cane.
Robert K. Liu
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Mosaic Beads—Roman

Dating to as early as 100 CE, but in use during the 3rd to 5th centuries in northern Europe, these cylindrical Roman mosaic beads often have marvered facets. In the photograph, the two cylindrical beads on the left are made by rolling a pad of mosaic glass around a mandrel. The faceted cylindrical bead (2.46 cm long) on the right is probably also so manufactured, but two strips of red glass added to the mosaic pad form caps. The spherical bead with the same colors and types of mosaic glass could have been formed by marvering a strip of mosaic glass onto a wound red glass core, but this example is made by rolling a pad of red glass with the embedded mosaic, as can be seen by the join line. Such beads are often sought by collectors.

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Cylindrical Roman mosaic glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Close-up of the type of Roman mosaic beads with red caps or ends
Robert K. Liu
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Moss Agate

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Moss agate beads.
Cas Webber
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Mother-of-Pearl

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See Also: Abalone Shell Beads Pearls


Mother of Pearl chip beads.
Cas Webber
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Moukite

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Round moukite beads showing color range for this stone.
Cas Webber
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Mouse Tail

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See: Satin Cord

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Mullaney, Mary

Information to come...

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See Also: Chevron Beads—Contemporary Heron Glass


Contemporary chevron bead by Mary Mullaney of Heron Glass.
Robert K. Liu
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Murini

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Indian murini.
Robert K. Liu

Murini, twisted canes, and mosaic sections by Japanese master beadmaker Kyoyu Asao.
Robert K. Liu
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Myrrh Beads

Scented beads made of aromatic pastes are widely prized for their aphrodisiac powers in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa. The small knobby beads known as “myrrh” beads are especially popular in Mali and Senegal, where women concoct a vegetal paste from a mixture of sweet-smelling substances. The main ingredient is a fragrant powder derived from the fruit of a West African tree, Detarium microcarpum, which grows in the tropical savanna belt south of the Sahara. Myrrh beads are not made from the resinous sap of the shrub Commiphora myrrha, as some mistakenly think. That thorny bush is native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and its pungent dried sap is best known as the gift of the third Wise Man to the infant Jesus.

Following recipes passed down from mother to daughter, women mix the floury powder with other fragrant ingredients, such as nutmeg, cloves, flower petals, or bulbs. Next they add hot water and then slowly boil the mixture down until it thickens and forms a paste. As it cools, the women knead the paste and shape it into little balls, which they perforate with a needle and then leave to dry in the sun. The beads are usually a muted tan, their natural color. In Senegal, however, the women often make the beads a bit bigger, and they are sometimes dyed red or, more rarely, black or green.

In Mali, married women string lengths of myrrh beads and then bind them together with strands of perforated seeds to make multistrand belts, which are called “waist beads,” although they sit on the hips. Senegalese women sometimes soak their myrrh beads in imported perfume and mix them with glass beads instead of seeds. In either case, however, the belt is worn under a woman’s wrapper, or skirt, where the aroma of the myrrh beads is heightened by contact with her body oils and the warmth of her skin. Although the beads are unseen, their seductive scent combines with the alluring undulation and mysterious rustling of the strands as they move with her hips, making a woman highly desirable and giving pleasure to her admirers as well as her husband.

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Scented resin beads from the African trade, generally referred to as myrrh, but actually originating from a different plant.
Cas Webber
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Naga Shell Pendants

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: 2009-11-11 modified




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Needle File

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See: File

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Needle Threader

A needle threader consists of a diamond-shaped loop of fine wire that is attached to a small, flat handle. To use, insert the point of the diamond into the eye of a needle. The diamond-shaped loop collapses as it is pushed through the eye, and then opens as it emerges. Pass the thread through the loop, then pull the threader back through the eye of the needle, pulling the thread through too, and thus threading the needle. This tool is very helpful when threading beading needles with very small eyes.

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Two examples of needle threader and thread cutter combo tool.
Cas Webber
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Needles

Needles help in stringing beads onto cord that isn’t stiff enough to push through beads directly. Needles can also help to pull cord through beads that have small or imperfect perforations. Different types of needles have different uses.

Beading needles are very thin metal needles with a very small eye. They are used primarily for bead weaving, both freehand and on a bead loom. A needle threader makes these needles much easier to use. While beading needles are designed to be flexible, if they are flexed too far, they may break. Also, they are not recommended for sewing because their small eyes are not strong enough to withstand much pulling. The smaller the size of a beading needle, the larger its number, much like the seed beads that beading needles are used to work with in off-loom stitching and loomwork. Use a #10 needle for working with 6° to 11° seed beads, a #12 for 8° to 13° seed beads, a #13 for 11° to 15° seed beads, and #15 for still smaller seed beads. If a design requires going back through beads when weaving, a smaller needle should be used for a given size of seed beads. A good rule of thumb is that the number of the needle should generally be larger than the number of the bead.

Big Eye or wide eye beading needles are made by soldering the ends of two pieces of steel wire together to form an eye that is almost as large as the needle is long. These needles range from 2.125" to 5" in length. They are useful for loom-work, macramé, and for transferring beads from one cord to another.

Sharps needles are similar to beading needles, but are shorter and slightly stiffer.

Twisted wire needles are useful when thread has to be passed more than once through beads or for beads that won’t accommodate a straight needle. Their large eyes make twisted needles very easy to thread. When they are passed through a bead hole, the flexible eye collapse. These needles are available loose and come attached to the end of silk sold on cards.

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Example of English beading needles.
Cas Webber

Twisted wire needles.
Cas Webber
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Nepalese Hair Ornaments

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See: Himalayan Hair Ornaments


Nepalese or Tibetan traditional hair ornament of silver and turquoise.
Robert K. Liu
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Nephrite

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See: Jade

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Netsuke

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New Jade

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New Jade beads from Taiwan.
Cas Webber
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Newcomb, Howard

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Porcelain bead with chevron design by contemporary beadmaker Howard Newcomb.
Robert K. Liu
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Nickel Silver

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Nigerian Metal Beads

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Various shapes and sizes of lightweight Nigerian metal beads with “gold-wash” wearing off.
Robert K. Liu
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No-Stretch Bead String

“No-Stretch” Nylon Beadstring is a strong, heat-set, bonded cord that is fray resistant and knottable. Available in two sizes of black or white cord, “No-Stretch” Nylon Beadstring is suitable for making necklaces or bracelets with a variety of different beads.

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No stretch nylon cord, an alternative to silk for knotting between beads.
Cas Webber
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Nueva Cadiz Beads

Nueva Cadiz beads are multi-layered, square blue beads. They consist of a dark core with a layer of white and then a layer of bright blue. Sometimes these square tubes are twisted. They get their name from the archeological site in Venezuela where they were first uncovered. Early in the glass bead trade, they were carried by the Spanish along with a small seven layered chevron.

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Large, newer Nueva Cadiz style bead with rounded ends from the African trade.
Robert K. Liu

Twisted Nueva Cadiz beads.
Robert K. Liu

Nueva Cadiz beads in a necklace.
Robert K. Liu
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Nylon Jaw Pliers

Nylon jaw pliers are designed for shaping, wrapping, and holding wire without marking its surface. They are also useful for straightening bent wire: simply grip the wire and pull along the length while the pliers are closed.

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Nylon jaw pliers for straightening wire.
Cas Webber
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Nymo®

Nymo® is the trademarked name for a nylon monofilament cord made of nylon fibers that have been bundled and heat set. This waxed nylon thread is recommended only for working with seed beads in weaving and Native American-style projects. Nymo comes in bobbins or on bulk spools in sizes ranging from 00 to FF, with 00 being the thinnest thread and FF the thickest. Sizes 00, B, and D are the sizes most often used for bead weaving projects. Nymo is available in black and white as well as many colors. Many bead artists consider it the thread of choice for bead weaving and embroidery, but it can fray and stretch a bit.

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Nymo beading thread used for seed beadwork and bead embroidery. Not for straight stringing applications.
Cas Webber
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Obsidian

Obsidian is usually shiny black volcanic glass but it can also occur in gray, brown, and green, with white streaks. Opaque to translucent, obsidian has a high vitreous luster. Snowflake obsidian is marked by gray-white radial inclusions.

Because obsidian takes a sharp edge, it was prime material for tools and weapons in prehistoric times. Obsidian beads date from as early as 6000 BC. Amulets and figurines were carved from obsidian in both the Old and New Worlds.

Commonly found in geologically recent lava flows, obsidian is produced by Japan, Indonesia, North and South America, Hungary, Italy.

Obsidian is considered a good luck stone and protective talisman. Small sand-smoothed pebbles are called “Apache tears,” for legend tells that the earth wept when an Apache warrior fell in battle.

More information to come...

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Ojime

Ojime are beads that were used by Japanese men as slide clasps between an inro and netsuke or between a pipe-case and a tobacco pouch/box, during the period 1603 to 1926. Beads of many materials were used as ojime, including stone, metal, glass and various natural substances. The ones of most outstanding craftsmanship were those of metal, such as the gold one that is illustrated, 2.8 cm high. It is a magnificent example of metalsmithing, employing repoussé, piercing, chasing and possibly casting. The perforation is sleeved to protect the hanging cords from abrasion. This practice extended to many types of ojime, including glass ones, which would otherwise not be distinguishable from other beads.

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A superb example of Japanese metalsmithing, this gold ojime shows vegetation and a small crab (2.8cm).
Robert K. Liu

Boxwood ojime style bead.
Cas Webber
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Olive Jade

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Olive jade beads.
Cas Webber
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Omega Chain

Omega chain is a flat, solid band that looks and bends like the belly of a snake. Not to be confused with round snake chains, omega chains can also come in a domed style. Omega chains are a popular style for adding pendants or slides. Some omega chains can be flipped when worn so that you see gold on one side and silver on the other.

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Onyx

Onyx consists of layered chalcedony with a dark base and light upper band, generally black with white, but sard-onyx has a brown base and carnelian-onyx a red base. Also comes in other shades, often artificially colored. Black onyx is uniformly black, which is seldom found in nature but is usually banded agate darkened by sugar solution treatment. Layered agate, sometimes with three or more bands, is widely used for carving, especially for cameos, which have a raised image, and intaglios, in which the image is incised. Onyx occurs worldwide, with Brazil and Uruguay being the most important sources.

Onyx marble, or Mexican onyx, found in Argentina, the US and North Africa as well as in Mexico, is an altogether different material. This earth-toned limestone is formed as layered deposits from warm springs or as stalactites or stalagmites in caves. Very porous, it is easily, and frequently, dyed.

With its sharply defined layers, onyx is viewed as the stone of separation: thought to cool ardor, provoke discord, and lead to the parting of lovers. By the same token, it is thought to heal emotional trauma and end the cycle of grief.

More information to come...

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Black onyx beads.
Cas Webber
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Opal

The name opal comes from Sanskrit for precious stone. Gemstone varieties of this form of quartz have a distinctive rainbow iridescence caused by opal’s water content and its unique structure consisting of a gel-like mass of minuscule, densely packed spheres. Opaque to translucent and rarely transparent, opals can display an aurora borealis of all the colors in the spectrum. Because opal is soft and brittle, it is usually carved into cabochons, rarely faceted, and almost never used for beads.

Opals were highly prized by the Romans. The senator Nonius chose exile over having to relinquish a cherished opal to the covetous Marc Anthony. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare praised opal as “the queen of gems.”

Major deposits occur in Australia, the Czech Republic, which was Rome’s source of supply; Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, where opals were mined by the Aztecs; and Japan, the US, and Brazil.

In Europe, opal has been considered a hard luck stone, perhaps because of its tendency to fracture spontaneously. In Asia, however, an opal symbolizes loyalty and hope.

More information to come...

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Openwork beads

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Two gold plated openwork beads.
Cas Webber
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Orbicular Agate

Information to come...

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See Also: Agate Botswana Agate

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Organic Beads

Beads made from materials that were once living things such as plants and animals. More information to come...

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See Also: Bone Beads Shell Coral


Fish vertebrae beads from Africa.
Robert K. Liu

African ostrich eggshell heishi beads.
Cas Webber
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Ostrich Eggshell Disk Beads

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See Also: Clamshell Disk Beads Disk Beads Heishi Snail Shell Disk Beads


Ostrich eggshell heishi from Africa.
Cas Webber
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P’Leather®

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See: Imitation Leather

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Paternoster Beads

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See: Chevron Beads

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Pearls

Whole volumes have been written about pearls, almost certainly the first gem collected and worn by humans. For more information about these lovely organic gems see Bibliographies in the Reference Section. A short abstract on this vast subject follows.

How Pearls are made

Pearls are the only gems created by a living organism. Any freshwater or marine mollusk can form pearls, but throughout history a few species have predominated. They include mussels, oysters, clams, conch and abalone.

These delicate creatures have no skeleton nor any scales or fur to protect them. They build their homes around themselves by secreting layer upon layer of smooth, lustrous calcium carbonate. We call this substance nacre if it surrounds something in the body of the animal and mother-of-pearl if it covers the inside of the shell or anything attached to the inside of the shell.

Mollusks feed by opening their shells and filtering nutrient-rich water. If an irritating bit of rock, shell, or organic matter gets inside and bites into their body they will surround it with nacre, eventually forming a pearl. This process can take years and almost always results in odd shaped (baroque) pearls. Round pearls were extremely rare and commanded exorbitant prices in antiquity, making them a sign of wealth and/or nobility.

More than 2000 years ago Indians and Arabs dived for oysters primarily in the Persian Gulf along the coasts of India and present day Sri Lanka and in the Red Sea. The Chinese have a long history of harvesting pearls from freshwater rivers and ponds, while early Japanese pearls came from ocean waters. One author estimates that 100,000 oysters from Bahrain would be required to get enough pearls for one necklace!

Cultured Pearls

Clearly there was a demand for a less costly alternative and several Japanese entrepreneurs developed and patented methods for creating cultured pearls around 1900.

Basically the technique involves implanting a mother of pearl object of the desired shape and size into the mollusk along with a piece of mantle (flesh from another mollusk). This triggers the response to cover the implanted object with nacre. The longer this process is allowed to go on, the thicker the nacre and the more lustrous and valuable the pearl. By the 1920s and 1930s the process had been perfected and beautiful and affordable pearls replaced natural pearls in jewelry for everyone except a few serious collectors, members of some religious sects and Arabs who can afford their strong preference for natural pearls.

Although Kokichi Mikimoto did not invent the process of culturing pearls he helped perfect it and worked tirelessly to market cultured pearls around the world. Japanese akoya oysters (Pinktada imbricata) produced lovely, but relatively small cultured pearls. In the 1960s fashion demanded larger pearls and the Japanese formed partnerships with Australians and others across the south Pacific to culture pearls in larger mollusks that inhabited these warmer waters.

Lake Biwa near Kyoto gave its name to Japan’s freshwater pearls, and for a time to all freshwater pearls on the market. Pollution has taken its toll on both freshwater and saltwater pearl production in Japan and since the 1980s China’s pearl output has surpassed Japan’s. Japan continued to sort, string, and market pearls from all over Asia for a while, but is now losing its grip on the industry as Australians, Tahitians, and most importantly the Chinese take over distributing their own pearls.

The most important measure of a pearl’s quality is the thickness of the nacre. The longer the implanted item is left in the mollusk, the thicker the nacre and the more lustrous and durable the pearl. Four years guarantees a thick coat of nacre, but today many Chinese pearls are harvested in less than a year.

What to look when buying pearls

As always you get what you pay for. The value and cost of pearls are related and are determined by the following factors:

Luster—the highest luster looks best and will wear the longest. It takes longer to make so it costs more to buy.

Shape is more a matter of taste than a measure of quality, but perfectly round pearls remain the most desirable and therefore command the highest prices.

Color preferences vary from country to country. Americans in general prefer pale pinks, while Europeans buy mostly cream and white pearls. Middle Easterners and South Americans in general value cream and gold pearls most highly.

Rare, large Tahitian black pearls command the highest prices around the world. Minerals in the water and variations among the mollusks producing the pearls determine subtle natural colors including pinks, cream, gold, and gray.

Darker bronzes, browns, iridescent greens, grays, and blues can be achieved with heat treatments sometimes referred to as irradiating.

Dyes produce bright, often interesting, but unnatural colors such as cranberry red, bright greens, blues, yellows and even purples.

Size also affects price. The quality of the luster being equal the bigger the pearl, the higher the value and price. However, it is possible to buy larger pearls that have an irregular shape and minimal luster that cost less than smaller pearls with high luster and perfectly round shapes. Select your pearls based on the features that are most important to you, and buy from reputable dealers so you know you are getting what you pay for.

Caring for your pearls

Possibly the most delicate gems, pearls require special care. They do best in steady medium humidity and must be protected from acids including those found in perfumes, hair products, cosmetics, bleach, detergents and cleaning products of all kinds, swimming pool water, and most other chemicals. Avoid steamers, ultrasonic jewelry cleaners, high heat of any kind, and don’t even think about putting your pearls in the dishwasher! Ranking between 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, pearls can be scratched by just about anything including metal, glass, and most other gems. Store pearls wrapped in a soft cloth to protect them from other items in your jewelry drawer. Professional jewelers recommend wiping your good pearls with a dry or damp cloth after each wearing to remove traces of perspiration or chemicals and suggest restringing pearls with knots between them every two years, or more often if you wear them a lot. Inexpensive pearls can of course be treated more casually.

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Various shapes and colors of contemporary Chinese freshwater pearls.
Robert K. Liu

Various colors and shapes of freshwater pearls.
Cas Webber

White freshwater pearls from China.
Cas Webber
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Pearls—Freshwater

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Freshwater pearls are available in wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Robert K. Liu
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Peking Glass

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See Also: Chinese Glass Beads


Assorted Chinese Peking glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Various Chinese Peking glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Perforation

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Crystal bead showing perforation drilled from both ends.
Robert K. Liu
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Peridot

Peridot is a vibrant, translucent green stone that has been known for over 4,000 years. Ancient Egyptians gathered and mined peridot on the inhospitable island of Zagbargad. It was a favorite of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. In the Middle Ages many of the stones brought back to Europe by the Crusaders were passed off as emeralds.

Today, 80 percent of the peridot on the market comes from Arizona. Pakistan also contains some new sources of peridot.

Metaphysically, peridot helps to bring about necessary changes. Use peridot to bless and energize your work, whether it is gardening, raising children, working as a healer, building a business or assisting others in any of these activities. Wear peridot to attract the true love of your life. Peridot is the traditional birthstone for August. The Red Sea deposits remain the most important s Also Burma, the US, Brazil, South Africa, and Norway.

Long associated with the sun, peridot is reputed to possess healing powers, break evil spells, and illuminate occult mysteries. Legend tells that because it glows in the dark peridot was prospected at night on St. John’s island in the Red Sea, and deposits were marked to be mined the next day.

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Indian peridot beads.
Cas Webber
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Peruvian Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Chevron Beads From Americas Nueva Cadiz Beads Peruvian Opal


Samples of various shapes of Peruvian painted clay beads.
Robert K. Liu

Pre-Columbian shell beads from the Moche culture of Peru.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient spondylus shell beads from Peru strung with Nueva Cadiz beads traded by the Spanish conquistadors.
Robert K. Liu
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Peruvian Opal

The best pink and blue specimens of common opal are found in Peru and given the name Peruvian opal. Blue-green Peruvian opal reminds one of the colors of the sea.

Metaphysically speaking, blue Peruvian opal calms a restless mind and can bring about more peaceful sleep. Pink Peruvian opal is similar in color to rhodochrosite, but without the distinctive bands. The pink variety of Peruvian opal clears and calms the heart. It also helps those who have excessive fear or anxiety.

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Peyote Stitch

Information to come...

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Phallic Pendants—Ancient and Contemporary

Certain organs of the human body have had a long history of use as beads, pendants or amulets, such as breast beads, male genitalia and very rarely, their female counterparts. The latter are mostly made by modern artists. Perhaps the most widespread are phallic pendants, which occur in metal, faience and glass in antiquity. Shown here are a faience amulet of the scrotum (1.9 cm long) and a contemporary glass example, by Larry Scott. The faience amulet is found in Italy in Roman times and elsewhere in Iran (Sassanian Persia) or south Russia but very similar ones in glass were in use earlier. Other popular amulets often found with the phallic ones include bunches of grapes and the figa or mano-fica, a very common apotropaic device for Romans.

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See Also: Amulets


Ancient faience scrotum pendant vs. contemporary glass phallic pendant.
Robert K. Liu
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Philippine Beads

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See Also: Wood Beads Coconut Shell Disk Beads

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Pi

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Various gemstone beads in classic Pi shape, commonly known as donuts.
Robert K. Liu
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Picasso Beads

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“Picasso” beads, contemporary European manufacture.
Robert K. Liu
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Pietersite

Pietersite contains swirling colors of blue, gold, red, purple, gray and black. It is sometimes called the tempest stone because of its similarity to the colors you may see in a thunderstorm. Namibia, South Africa and China are the major producers of pietersite.

Use pietersite to enhance creativity. Pietersite helps to clear negative energy and destructive patterns while revealing a new direction for your life. With pietersite’s gift of increased power, a person is more likely to go after and achieve his or her goals.

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Four Piertersite briolette shaped beads.
Cas Webber
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Plated

Information to come...

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Plated base metal beads.
Cas Webber

Examples of various kinds of plated beads including metalized plastic (largest), plated base metal beads and plated beads set with crystals (front center).
Cas Webber
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Platinum

Information to come...

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Pliers

Information to come...

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See: Chain Nose Pliers Crimping Pliers Cutters Nylon Jaw Pliers Rosary Pliers Round Nose Pliers Split Ring Opener


Left to right: round nose pliers, crimping pliers and cutters.
Cas Webber

Chain nose pliers.
Cas Webber

Round nose pliers.
Cas Webber
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Plique A Jour

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Plique a jour beads.
Robert K. Liu
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PMC

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See: Precious Metal Clay

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Polishing Cloth

A polishing cloth removes tarnish from metal jewelry without water. The item should be clean and free from dust before polishing. Gently rub the surface with the polishing cloth which is impregnated with chemical cleansing agents and non-scratching micro-abrasives.

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Polishing cloth for safely removing tarnish from metals without damaging stones.
Cas Webber
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Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is a clay-like material made with PVC and other compounds that help create pigment or texture effects. This material was a serendipitous development based on plastics used in other fields, such as doll making and the electrical industry. In the 1960s polymer clay was first used in artistic endeavors. Two of the most popular brands are Fimo and Sculpey.

Polymer clay allows artists to mimic glass bead designs with even greater precision than makers of the original glass beads could achieve. With polymer, the design is set in clay and then cured; the artist does not have to set the design in molten glass. This results in cleaner lines and more symmetrical designs. Compared to the centuries-long history of other materials, the history of polymer clay very young. This material is mere decades old, so we may well see many more creative applications in the beadmaking world.

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See Also: Dustin, Kathleen City Zen Cane Hughes, Tory Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Polymer clay beads by Pier Voulkos.
Robert K. Liu

Fimo beads by Kathleen Dustin.
Robert K. Liu

Mass produced imported polymer clay beads.
Cas Webber
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Polymer Clay Imitations of Other Materials

Polymer clay, a kind of plastic, has been used successfully by late 20th century artists to duplicate many natural and synthetic materials. Tory (Victoria) Hughes is among the pioneers in developing imitative techniques with polymer. She has specialized in producing an array of realistic replicas of ancient and ethnographic beads. The image shows excellent imitations of stone, coral, and copal beads. She even imitates the way that pre-Columbian Maya inscribed jade beads and then filled the lines with cinnabar. The simulated coral and copal beads have inlaid turquoise, a practice used among certain Asians, such as Tibetans.

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See Also: Polymer Clay


Polymer beads imitating stones and other bead materials, by Tory Hughes, an artist who pioneered this technique. (1.7 to 6.5 cm long).
Robert K. Liu

Authentic Mauritanian kiffa bead; contemporary glass kiffa reproduction; Fimo polymer clay kiffa reproduction.
Robert K. Liu
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Poppy Jasper

Information to come...

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Poppy Jasper coin or dime-shaped beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Powder Glass Beads

Powder glass beads are made from pulverized glass either by a wet-form method, in which a binder is added to help to shape the beads, or by a dry-form method employing molds. The beads are fired in a simple kiln in which the glass is sintered; that is, although the temperatures reached are not high enough to fully melt the glass, the particles are fused into a coherent mass.

Powder glass beads are made almost exclusively in West Africa, where the technique may date back to the 16th century, or even earlier in Mauritania. At first the glass was probably derived mainly from imported glass beads and glass ingots. More recently a principal source of raw material in Ghana has been old jars and bottles—beer bottles for brown and green, cold cream jars for white, milk of magnesia bottles for blue. Metal oxides, sulfur, and other additives produce additional colors. Now plastic packets of pre-ground glass of every hue can be bought in the market.

Today the craft is thriving in Ghana among the Krobo, Ewe, and Asante, who use clay molds to form beads by the dry method. In the more common type of mold, powdered glass is poured into multiple circular depressions, each of which has a stalk of a cocoyam or cassava leaf fixed upright in its center to form a vertical perforation. The beads may be monochrome or have horizontal bands made by layering different colors of glass. Longitudinal stripes are created by sliding a wire or straw down the wall of a hole after filling, then withdrawing it and filling in the cavity with pulverized glass of a contrasting color; spiral stripes are formed by twisting the bead part way through the firing. In another type of mold, powdered glass is poured in a groove, with the stalk that forms the perforation placed horizontally in the middle of the heap.

A popular technique today is to make two solid or hollow powder glass halves and then fuse them together to form a sphere or bicone. Beads may also be decorated by inserting small beads, bead fragments, or other pre-formed glass elements before firing. Some designs replicate patterns created in European glass beads by other methods, such as trailed waves and crosses, impressed eyes, and millefiori motifs.

If fired long enough in a relatively hot furnace, powder glass beads may acquire a glassy finish, but more often they are matte and rather gritty. After cooling they are usually ground and polished on a fine-grained stone to smooth the surface and sometimes shape the beads and bevel their ends. The perforations of powder glass beads are always irregular. The beads range in length from about 4 mm to 50 mm or more. The colors are all opaque and once were typically somber and muted, but today lighter and brighter shades are common.

The method of manufacture and granular texture of Ghanaian powder glass beads have given rise to popular names such as baked beads, pot beads, and sand or sand-cast beads. Among traders they are also known as Ghana glass. Striped or layered beads are called gashi or priest beads, perhaps because they were used in divination. White beads with red and black or other stripes, widely worn as multi-strand waist beads, are called powa by the Krobo, the term they use for chevrons, which these beads resemble. Adjagba, akosu, and bodom beads are large and highly esteemed Ghanaian beads made by the powder glass method.

Sintered glass crumbs have been used to simulate gneiss beads in Ghana and possibly Mali, and coral beads in Nigeria. Some Nigerian powder glass beads may have been formed with the help of a binder, but the finest examples of the wet-form technique are the intricate polychrome Kiffa beads made in Mauritania.

Outside of Africa, Native Americans used crushed glass trade beads to make tab pendants as early as 1680. In 1805 Lewis and Clark reported the manufacture of large powder glass beads by the Mandan. Some thirty years later, the painter George Catlin described these as "a very beautiful and lasting kind of blue glass beads, which they wear on their necks in great quantities."

In the twentieth century powder glass beads have been made from glass scrap in Borneo, while contemporary beads of pulverized glass bound with plastic resin have entered the market from Lebanon as fake ancient beads mixed with real ones.

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See Also: Adjagba Beads Akoso Beads Bodom Beads Kiffa Beads Coral Simulations Recycled Bead Materials Simulations and Copies Waist Beads


Powder Glass beads from West Africa.
Robert K. Liu

Powder glass striped tube beads.
Robert K. Liu

Mauritanian kiffa bead made by powder glass method.
Robert K. Liu
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Power Pro

A pre-waxed, braided bead thread that is both flexible and strong, thanks to new technology. Power Pro has an 8- to 30-pound test strength depending on diameter. Few beads will cut through it. It is one the best cords for working with crystals, metal beads, and bugle beads, but it can be too thick for multiple passes through some of the smallest beads. Cutting it at an angle and waxing the tip can help to thread it through a #12 or #13 beading needle. It knots easily, and it does not stretch.

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Pre-Columbian

Information to come...

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See Also: Greenstone Beads Peruvian Beads Shell Beads Tairona Beads


Pre-Columbian greenstone beads.
Robert K. Liu

Inlaid shell beads from the Moche culture of pre-Columbian Peru.
Robert K. Liu

Pre-Columbian clay beads depicting coatimundi.
Robert K. Liu
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Precious Metal

The three generally recognized precious metals are gold, silver, and platinum. They are called precious due their rarity and economic value, as opposed to base metals, which are abundant and less valuable. Both precious- and base metals are elements—substances in their purest form. Alloys are combinations of two or more different metals and, in fact, the metals used in beads and jewelry are almost always alloys. Karat gold and sterling silver consist predominantly of precious metal but they are alloyed with other metals to improve their functionality.

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Precious Metal Clay

Information to come...

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Prenite

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Prenite beads.
Cas Webber
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Pressed Glass Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Bapterosses Beads Bohemian Pressed Glass Prosser Beads Snake Beads Druks Fulani Wedding Beads Molded Glass Beads Vaseline Beads


Pressed Chinese glass.
Robert K. Liu

Pressed Czech glass beads also known as “druks.”
Robert K. Liu

Bohemian pressed glass trade beads known as wedding beads or lightbulb beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Prosser Beads

Two Englishmen invented the basic process that is used to make Prosser molded beads. In 1840 Richard Prosser patented the process in England, and in 1841 his brother Thomas patented improvements to the process in the US. Both patents were for the manufacture of buttons. Neither of the brothers ever made beads. Prosser beads are also called Bapterosses beads, after a French entrepreneur who further improved on the Prosser method and began making beads in France in the 1860s.

Prosser beads are always opaque, and their ceramic-like finish is often rather crude and grainy. They come in a limited range of colors beyond the standard spectrum of light to dark primary colors, the usual pastels, and a few more exotic hues such as amber and coral. Predominantly spherical or cylindrical and modest in size, they could be described as typical filler beads. Thanks to interchangeable two-part molds, however, Prosser boast a variety of complex shapes, including interlocking beads, such as “snake” beads.

Prosser beads are made with the help of a hydraulic press that can exert the great pressure that is needed to compress a cold, moist mixture of finely pulverized materials into cast-iron molds and form beads. After removal from the mold the beads are dried, then after being fired at a relatively low temperature they may be hand painted or transfer printed, but they are usually left undecorated and monochrome. Finally, they are glazed and fired at a high temperature, similar to the way that porcelain is.

The ingredients of the mixture and their proportions vary, and researchers debate whether Prosser beads should be classified as ceramic—porcelain, in particular—or glass, or a ceramic/glass hybrid. The materials that make up the mixture reportedly include clay or some other earthy material (the basic material of ceramics), flint and feldspar (porcelain ingredients), but also soda and quartz sand (major components of glass). Metallic oxides (used by potters and glassmakers alike) are added to obtain the desired colors. Other beadmakers have added still other ingredients to the mix, most notably milk which was introduced by Bapterosses. It is understandable that Prosser beads are sometimes misidentified as pressed glass beads, or mistakenly called porcelain or earthenware beads. They are also widely known as tile beads, because the same materials and technology are used to make ceramic tiles.

Beads that are made by the Prosser method share several distinguishing features. Mold seams often create pronounced equatorial ridges on spherical beads. Cylindrical beads taper slightly, as do their large perforations, which makes it easier to release them from the mold. A marked difference between the two ends of cylindrical beads is due to the molding process. One end is typically smooth and somewhat rounded, while the other end is flat and displays a pitted “orange peel” surface. In Bapterosses beads, which tend to be more carefully crafted, this tell-tale anomaly may barely be visible except to a trained eye.

After Bapterosses developed a system to mass produce Prosser beads, and thus reduced their cost, they became very popular. Soon other workshops and factories began producing Prosser beads in Bohemia, then in Germany, and possibly in Italy and even in England. Because the beads were inexpensive and uniform in size and shape they became worldwide best sellers. European beadworkers liked to use them to create decorative geometric designs to embellish utilitarian items, such as table mats, trivets, and bell pulls. But most Prosser beads were made for export to the Americas, to Asia, which inspired the name “Oriental Beads” for a line of trade beads, and especially to Africa, where they were used in the regalia of Kuba kings and Luba diviners. The high frequency of Prosser beads found in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo, suggests that they may have also been made in Belgium. The great bulk of them were cylindrical or spherical in various sizes, but some were specifically designed for the African market. The Czechs used the Prosser method to mold imitation conus shell rings, lions’ teeth, and Tuareg amulets. Today these simulations of traditional African ornaments are highly prized collectibles.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, shipments of Prosser beads arriving in African ports rose to hundreds of tons annually. But when plastic beads proliferated in the 1950s and ‘60s, demand for Prosser beads declined, and by the end of the 20th century production of these beads ceased altogether in Europe. They continued to be made in North Africa, however, with old machinery that had last manufactured Prosser beads in the Czech Republic. The equipment had been sold off by weight to a Moroccan company, and in the 1990s it was still turning out tile beads, but in modern matte and muted colors favored by contemporary designers.

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See Also: Bapterosses Beads Bohemian Pressed Glass Pressed Glass Beads Snake Beads


An assortment of glass Prosser beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Puka Shells

Information to come...

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Necklace of puka shell beads from the 1970s.
Robert K. Liu
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Pumtek Beads

With heavy influence from India, the Pyu people of Burma created a patterned bead called pumtek or “buried thunderbolt”. Around 1,000 years ago, these people began using fossilized palm wood as their medium and then adding dark patterns to it. In the early 1900’s the villagers living near an ancient Pyu city began looting the nearby cemeteries and selling off the ancient pumtek beads to Chin villagers from western Burma (Myanmar). When the pumtek beads ran out, the Pyu began drilling decorated blanks and making copies from petrified, but not opalized, hard-grained wood. All are now on the market, but the genuine ones are much more valuable. Genuine pumtek beads generally have dark striations along the sides and dots on the ends which indicate they were made from fossilized palm wood. The imitations have been made since about 1926, but are made from a hard wood with a finer grain that sometimes appears darker and more wood-like.

The Chin people who purchased the beads knew they were getting imitations and paid much less for them. Just before the 1980’s the demand decreased and beadmaking stopped. Because of worldwide demand for the unique pumtek patterning, beadmaking has since resumed. Materials other than fossilized wood are being used with mixed results. Horn and stone are two of the materials that have been tried, but haven’t had the success of the original palm wood.

For some collectors, it may be hard to tell a genuine pumtek bead from a copy. The only sure way to tell involves the use of a short wave UV lamp. If the bead fluoresces, it is an original pumtek bead, if not, it is one of the copies.

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Traditional pumtek bead shapes.
Robert K. Liu

Pumtek bead diamond shape.
Robert K. Liu
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Punch

03/02/2010 : modified

See: Stamping

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Pyrite

Pyrite is sometimes called fool’s gold because of its metallic luster and yellow hue. Spain, Italy and Peru contain the most important deposits of this brassy stone. Pyrite can become brittle when exposed to humidity, so keep it cool and dry. In jewelry making, pyrite is a great alternative to silver or gold accents.

Pyrite helps to build up masculine energy. This is beneficial to both men and women who need to be more confident or assertive. Placing pyrite in your office can help you maintain focus and detoxify your environment. Men could wear pyrite to enhance their vitality.

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Pyrite nugget beads.
Cas Webber
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Quartz

The quartz family of minerals results from fusing the two most common elements on earth, oxygen and silicon. In the gemstone trade, the term usually refers to crystalline quartz, which forms large distinct crystals. Varieties include amethyst, aventurine, citrine, and tiger’s eye, as well as rose quartz, smoky quartz, and rock crystal, which is the purest form of quartz.

Microcrystalline quartz is slightly softer and is made up of crystals that are not visible to the naked eye; this group encompasses chalcedony, which is fibrous and includes agate and onyx, and jasper, which is distinguished by its granular structure.

Another category, known as amorphous quartz but better described as cryptocrystalline, comprises opals, which are still softer and structurally distinguished by their gel-like mass consisting of crystals so tiny that they have only recently been detected by electron microscopes.

Valued for its physical attributes since ancient times, quartz also has electrical and optical properties that have found many modern applications in audio equipment, optical instruments, watches, and computer chips. It is found worldwide.

Equally enduring is the lore about the psychic properties of quartz – that it is a repository and transmitter of energy, that it possesses healing powers, that it links the material world and other realms. Shamans in the earliest societies viewed quartz as a “live rock” that could cure the sick and bring back the souls of the departed. Today, New Age healers also credit crystals with restoring health and vigor and tuning them in to other worlds.

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See Also: Rock Crystal Amethyst

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Raised Eye Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Contemporary raised eye bead inspired by ancient Chinese eye beads.
Robert K. Liu

Raised eye beads in polymer clay by Kathleen Dustin, inspired by ancient Chinese glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Rat Tail

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See: Satin Cord

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Recycled Bead Materials

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Recycled Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Indonesian Recycled Glass Beads Krobo Beads African Recycled Glass Beads


A range of popular colors and shapes of Indonesian recycled glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

The bead on the left is an ancient Indonesian glass bead. The one on the right is a contemporary replica made from recycled glass with lapidary techniques.


Robert K. Liu

African Recycled glass beads.
Cas Webber
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Replicas and Reproductions

Replicas and reproducitons are copies that are meant to be as close as possible to the original, but which are not meant to deceive. Museum stores frequently sell reproductions and replicas of items on display. Archeologists like Dr. J. Mark Kenoyer have taught local beadmakers to replicate ancient designs in carnelian, lapis and other beads. This provides an income for communities that might otherwise be tempted to loot archeologica sites for profit and damages the market for looted beads because the replicas create doubt and depress prices. More information to come...

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See Also: Replicas of Ancient Stone Beads From The Middle East Simulations and Copies Fakes Interpretations of Beads

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Replicas of Ancient Stone Beads From The Middle East

To ease the collecting pressure on ancient beads during the late 20th century, Dr. J. Mark Kenoyer, an archeologist and specialist in Harappan craft technology, initiated the making of replica stone beads among the beadmakers of Khambhat, India. Many shapes were made, but among the more striking were carnelian copies of the long bicones, made famous by examples found in Mesopotamia and at Harappa. In this image, an array of replica bicones are shown, along with an ancient example from Afghanistan; it is the fourth bead from the right, and 6.7 cm long. The replicas are 4.2 to 6.9 cm long. By looking carefully at the perforation, one can differentiate the real from the replicas. Since the mid-1990s, other Indian and Chinese makers have also produced tabular beads, as well as leech beads. Many are of good quality and it can be difficult for the novice to recognize them as new, although the stones now used tend to be more patterned than in antiquity.

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Replicas of ancient carnelian beads with one original (4th from the right). Replicas are 4.2 to 6.9 cm long.
Robert K. Liu
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Replicas—Pressed Glass

Many glass beads made for the colonial trade were based on prototypes that were already used and valued in the countries that were the recipients of such trade. In this photograph, some Czech molded glass pendants, about 1.7 cm long, now called in the trade wedding beads or lightbulb beads, are compared to ancient glass pendants from Mali, that range from 1.8 to 3.1 cm long. The basic shapes are similar, but of course the colors are not. The ancient ones were made by lampworking, the modern ones molded.

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See Also: Fulani Wedding Beads


Contemporary, molded Czech glass pendants compared to ancient, monochrome blue ones from Mali.
Robert K. Liu
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Repoussé

Repoussé, or repoussage, is one of the oldest methods of metalworking, dating back to the Bronze Age. The process involves beating out sheet metal from the back by using a hammer or mallet and a variety of punches to create a raised relief on the surface of the metal. Sometimes the smith turns the metal over and works from the front to create concave, or depressed, areas.

Variously shaped punches are used for modeling volumetric shapes, making straight or curved lines, and creating textured surfaces. Throughout the process the piece being worked on must be supported on resilient material, usually pitch. Repoussé work is usually followed up by chasing from the front of the piece in order to bring out the details and develop the design.

 

 

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See Also: Stamping


Indian Silver fish bead created, in part, with repoussé technique.
Robert K. Liu
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Rhinestone Beads

Information to come...

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Metal beads with rhinestones.
Robert K. Liu
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Rhodochrosite

Rhodochrosite gets its name from the Greek for rose-red for its translucent shades of striking red ranging from raspberry to rose to deep pink, with jagged streaks and patches of white. With a hardness of 4 on the Mohs scale, this stone can scratch very easily. Golden rhodochrosite, a tawny to brownish variety, looks like barley-sugar candy. Fairly soft and fragile, this manganese carbonate seldom occurs in crystals that can be faceted. Rather, it is usually used as chips, nuggets, or cabochons, or carved into larger ornamental objects that show off the stone’s exquisite striations and banding.

Main sources are Argentina, where massive stalagmites of striped pink-and-white rhodochrosite have formed in a cave. In Colorado, an old silver mine has yielded rhodochrosite crystals that are almost ruby red, while crystals found in South Africa are blood-red in color. Also occurs in Nevada, Montana, and New Jersey. In Europe, it is found in silver veins in Germany and Romania.

Rhodochrosite, like many of the other pink stones, assists the heart chakra in promoting love. In the case of rhodochrosite, however, this love is directed inward to help one heal from past emotional trauma. Use rhodochrosite to bring self-confidence when starting a new relationship.

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Round rhodochrosite bead from South America.
Robert K. Liu
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Rhodonite

Rhodonite is from the Greek for “rose,” alluding to its rosy red and soft pink color with variable gray to black veining. This manganese silicate is usually opaque, occasionally transparent. Widely used for beads and cabochons, rhodonite’s toughness and beautiful patterning make it also popular for carving and inlay work. Often found in association with silver deposits. Mined in Sweden, Australia, and the former USSR (largely worked out); also the US, Canada, Mexico, India, Madagascar, and South Africa.

Thought to cool the emotions, open the heart, and create self-confidence by reducing stress.

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Leaf-shaped rhodonite pendants.
Cas Webber
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Rhyolite

Information to come...

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A rhyolite pendant showing more brown and less green than most examples of this stone.
Cas Webber
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Ring Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Annular Beads Celtic Ring Beads Ringperlen

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Ring Gauge

A ring gauge is a ring mandrel marked with measurements. It is used to wrap wire to make rings of a certain size or to determine the size of finished rings

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See Also: Mandrel

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Ring Sizer

A ring sizer consists of a series of rings on a loop or a chain. These rings usually measure from size 1 to size 15 in whole and half sizes. By trying these rings on someone’s finger, you can determine what size ring will fit that person.

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See Also: Mandrel

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Ring Stick

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See: Mandrel

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Ringperlen

Ring beads or ringperlen are found in the United Kingdom and on the Continent, especially in Celtic sites. They may date to the late La Tene period of the last two centuries BCE. Of pleasing shapes, like very well-shaped doughnuts, they are often of translucent green to almost clear when trans-illuminated, and range from 1.6 to 2.1 cm diameters. Their trailed decorations are often feathered, like the one shown and their glass is usually in good to excellent condition.

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See Also: Annular Beads Celtic Ring Beads Ring Beads


A ring bead or ringperl, probably from a Celtic site in Europe.
Robert K. Liu
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Rock Crystal

Found worldwide, clear and colorless, rock crystal is a crystalline quartz “unblemished” by mineral impurities and is named for the Greek word for ice. Today, large ultra-pure crystals are hydrothermally cultured from natural quartz in laboratories. These are then sawed into super-thin wafers for use in aerospace electronics.

In classical times, Roman women carried small rock crystal balls to cool their palms in the heat of summer. Rhinestones were reputedly tiny rock crystal pebbles from the Rhine river; today they are made of glass and come in many colors. The world’s largest flawless crystal ball is probably the Smithsonian’s 107-pound sphere, which was carved from Burmese quartz.

Thought to focus energies, foster meditation, facilitate communication on the spiritual level, and further personal transformation.

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Clear rock crystal quartz bead showing perforation drilled from both ends.
Robert K. Liu

Clear rock crystal nuggets.
Cas Webber
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Rolled Gold

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See: Gold-Filled

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Rolo Chain

Rolo chain looks like a string of tiny wedding rings joined together because the links are made of half round wire, rather than round wire. It comes in sizes from tiny to huge.

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Gold-tone base metal rolo chain.

Cas Webber
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Rondels

Information to come...

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Assorted stone beads in thick rondel shapes.
Cas Webber
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Rosary Pliers

Rosary pliers consist of a round nose pliers and a cutter combined in one tool. The cutter is located at the base of the round jaws. They are named rosary pliers because they are so useful for making rosaries when wire must be looped and cut repeatedly. Any project that requires this sort of action will be easier because there is no need to constantly change tools. Rosary pliers, however, do not necessarily give you the best of both worlds. The quality of each tool sometimes suffers when they are combined. The continual cutting of wire may cause the round jaws to become uneven. The cutters are also not in a good position for very precise cutting because they are between the round jaws and the handles.

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Rose Quartz

Named for its color, Rose Quartz ranges from a delicate pink to deep rose or almost white. The stone is transparent to translucent often crackled and usually somewhat cloudy. Rose quartz was a favorite of the ancient world from Egypt to China.

The largest deposits occur in Brazil, the best quality stones come from Madagascar while the US and the former USSR also extract and export some rose quartz.

This stone is believed to help clear the complexion, erase wrinkles, improve self-image, open the mind to beauty and the heart to love.

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Rose quartz beads.
Cas Webber
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Rosetta Beads

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See: Chevron Beads

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Round Nose Pliers

Round nose pliers have two completely round tapered jaws for making wire loops and closing the loops on bead tips. They are essential for earring making. Unlike chain nose pliers, however, the jaws of round nose pliers are not well suited for flattening or holding objects.

Personal preferences, budget, environmental conditions, and the type and amount of work you do are factors that help determine which pliers are best for you. Carbon steel is strongest, but will rust if not protected from moisture. Drop-forged and box-jointed tools can withstand greater stress than die-cast and lap-jointed versions. Ergonomic handles and spring-action joints can reduce strain if you are using your tools intensively. Size also matters: tools with the same size jaws may have handles that vary several inches in length. Choose those that fit your hands best. Mini tools are popular with children, and with beaders on the move.

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Round nose pliers.
Cas Webber
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Round-Your-Wire Tool

A round-your-wire tool smoothes the rough and often sharp ends of cut beading wire. A 1.8mm cup at the end of the tool contains a file. By inserting the end of your cut wire and rotating it, rough edges that may be left on your wire by the cutters will be smoothed. This simple-to-use tool is especially useful for ear wires.

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Rubber Tubing

Rubber tubing 2mm in diameter offers an alternative to leather for stringing large hole beads. To achieve the beads-on-leather look, rubber tubing can be cut in sections and threaded onto cable wire between bead. See our How to section for details.

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Rubber tubing used for bead stringing.
Cas Webber
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Rudraksha beads

Information to come...

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A mala or prayer strand of Rudraksha beads.
Cas Webber
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Russian Blue Beads

Information to come...

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“Russian blue” beads.
Robert K. Liu
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S-hook Clasps

Clasps for necklaces shaped like the letter S. These are popular for their simplicity and symetricality. They may be embellished in various ways and are made in precious and base metals. Most are forged, but they can also be cast although the latter weaken more quickly from repeated opening and closing.

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Vermeil S-hook clasps from India.
Cas Webber
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San Pedro Quiatoni Beads

Information to come...

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Necklace of San Pedro Quiatoni glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Sand Cast Beads

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See: Powder Glass Beads

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Satin Cord

Satin cord preferred for beading is generally Rattail™, a cord made in the USA that comes in many colors and knots well. It is typically 2mm in diameter. Use it with large beads for Chinese knotting techniques.

Mousetail is a popular name for thinner satin cord that measures around 1mm in diameter.

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Scarab Beads

Information to come...

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Egyptian scarab beads in various sizes and materials.
Robert K. Liu
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Scented Beads

Scented beads and other aromatic ornaments go back to the earliest forms of human adornment, which were probably fragrant flowers, succulent berries, spicy seeds, and sweet-smelling grasses. Although few remains of those ancient botanical ornaments have come down to us, traces of pollen found in ancient graves suggest that Neanderthals garlanded their dead with yarrow, cornflowers, and hyacinths. A rare well-preserved example of scented jewelry was unearthed in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt: an exquisite floral broad collar of cornflowers, olive leaves, and berries, which may have been worn by a guest at Tutankhamun’s funerary banquet in the 13th century BC. In Mauritania, excavations have uncovered ancient organic beads that include not only perforated seeds and shells but some very early scented beads made of aromatic vegetal pastes.

The tradition of scented adornment encompasses the globe, from garlands of musky marigolds in India to leis of fragrant frangipani in Hawaii. In the Islamic world, a faint aroma of olive wood, acacia, and sandalwood perfumes the evening air as Muslims  count out 99 prayer beads while reciting the 99 most beautiful names, or attributes, of God. In East Asia, ambergris, or dragon’s spittle fragrance, as the Chinese called it, enhanced the exotic scent of beads carved of rosewood, aloeswood, and other rare woods in the prestigious court necklaces worn by Manchurian emperors, imperial officials, and their families. In medieval Europe, Christian rosaries, which were also worn as necklaces, sometimes incorporated pomander beads. These large hollow balls of openwork gold, enamel, or finely carved wood were filled with mixtures of musk, herbs, cloves, and other spices to protect the wearer from the plague. People believed that the aroma would counteract the foul odors emanating from the dying, which were thought to spread the dread disease. In England and America, making sweet-smelling beads from rose petals became a popular hobby of our Victorian era forebears. Scented adornment is not only ancient, it is a worldwide phenomenon.

Today, however, that tradition is declining, and aromatic beads and ornaments are becoming increasingly rare. Their production and use remains most pervasive and enduring across North Africa, and in areas extending southward into sub-Saharan Africa, and eastward through the Arab Middle East. In these regions, one generation has handed down to the next, over the centuries, their age-old folk knowledge of aromatic substances and how to use them alone or combine them most effectively. Scented materials that are used in adornment in their natural form, either whole or in part, include nuts, pits, pods, and seeds, as well as carved aromatic woods, fragrant herbs, grasses, leaves, and flower buds. Pungent bulbs, corms, tubers, roots, and rhizomes are highly prized for their medicinal powers. After being cut up and perforated, they are strung in belts and necklaces. These are worn as antidotes to poison and remedies for ailments ranging from colic to high blood pressure. In Mali in West Africa, young mothers wear strands of corklike chunks of spongy lotus root to stimulate the flow of milk for their newborn.

From Morocco to the Persian Gulf, cloves remain a favorite of traditional Arab women, who believe these dried flower buds have magical aphrodisiac powers. Brides incorporate clusters of whole cloves as well as clove-scented paste beads into their colorful necklaces—an exuberant mix of amber, amazonite, red Mediterranean coral, and gaudy glass beads; further embellished with silver coins, chains, charm boxes, or pendants; occasionally sparked with a few gold beads; studded with cowrie and conus shells; and hung with bright wool tassels and pompoms.

Whole cloves are strung either lengthwise through the stem, or crosswise, like toggles. Perforation releases their strong pungent aroma, which is thought to have not only the power to seduce, but the power to repel evil forces. Thus, as a prophylactic measure, a new mother will wear a clove necklace for 40 days after giving birth. And to protect her baby from the malicious mischief of jinn or witches, she will tie a red cord strung with cloves around her baby’s wrist or attach a packet of cloves or some other apotropaic substance, such as sulfur, to the child’s clothing.

Compared to the scent of materials in their natural and unadulterated form, the scent of pastes is much more varied and more complex. The women who make these pastes draw on a great variety of aromatic ingredients, selecting and blending them in endless olfactory combinations, which differ from region to region. But across North and sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab Middle East, women use the same basic method to make scented paste beads, which is similar to the way that incense is made. In order to break down material that is hard and dry, they first grind it, or pound it if it is pulpy. Then they sift it to produce a fine powder. Next they add aromatic oils and/or other liquids and bring the mixture to a boil. Then stirring, they slowly reduce it until it thickens and forms a paste. As the paste cools, they knead and shape it by hand, or press it into molds, to make tiny balls, cubes, pyramids, or more fanciful shapes. When the paste has partially set, the women perforate the beads with a needle and then leave them to dry and harden in the sun.

Scented paste beads are also similar to incense in composition, except the beads don’t have a combustible base. Otherwise, they are made up of the same types of fragrant organic materials: aromatic herbs, leaves, and grasses; sweet-smelling buds and blossoms; fruits, nuts, and seeds; roots and rhizomes; woods and bark. The sense of smell and sense of taste are closely entwined, and many ingredients, especially spices, that are used in incense and scented paste beads are also used in cookery.

Some flowers are cultivated as commercial crops not only for their ornamental value but also for their fragrance and their flavor. Rose petals can be ground up and used in the form of powder to make scented paste. Or paste can be perfumed with attar of roses, an intensely fragrant essential oil that is also used to flavor liqueurs. It is produced by distillation or by extracting oil from the petals with a solvent. It takes about 250 pounds of petals to yield 1 ounce of attar of roses. Rosewater, a far less potent and less expensive byproduct, is used as an ingredient in Middle Eastern sweets as well as in paste beads. Even cheaper commercial perfumes created by chemical synthesis have been used increasingly in scented beads in recent decades.

In Tunisia, geraniums are grown on a large scale to make beads called shab. Their powerful and enduring aroma is reputed to be very seductive. They are concocted from an old Egyptian formula that calls for rose petals, saffron, nutmeg, cloves, musk, and / or ambergris, as well as geranium leaves which are distilled to capture the distinctive scent of different varieties. Geraniums boast a broad range of aromas, resembling nutmeg, mint, citrus and other fruits, and also other flowers. The most valuable varieties have the scent of roses, and their essential oils are widely used as supplements or substitutes for costly attar of roses.

Fields of lovely saffron crocuses, pale lavender to deep purple, are cultivated in order to reap a golden harvest of tiny yellow-orange stigmas. These are the tips of the pistils where the pollen is deposited, three per blossom. More than 12,000 stigmas must be hand plucked from some 4,000 flowers to obtain a single ounce of dry saffron powder, the most expensive spice in the world. When used as a condiment, saffron’s piquant flavor and bright color enliven Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Its pungent aroma, a hay-like fragrance with a whiff of raw honey, adds spice to scented paste beads. Other botanical materials that are used both as culinary spices and as ingredients of scented pastes include nutmeg and cardamom (which are seeds), ginger (a rhizome), and cinnamon (the inner bark of a tropical tree).

Trees and bushes provide a variety of materials for making scented pastes. Famous for the fragrance of its flowers, leaves, and berries, myrtle supplies ingredients for scented beads from all three sources. Aromatic woods are pounded, ground, and pulverized for use in powdered form. Arboreal materials yield essential oils as well. For example, tangy sandalwood oil is extracted from the tree’s yellowish heartwood, while heavily perfumed patchouli oil is distilled from the shrub’s leaves. And trees also provide resins, such as gum benzoin. Although it smells like vanilla, benzoin is chosen not for its aroma but to act as a binder. Resinous materials hold the dry and liquid ingredients together so they form a coherent paste. The popular myrrh beads of Mauritania and Senegal, however, do not contain the famous myrrh that the Wise Men brought to the infant Jesus. That aromatic gum resin is produced by a scrubby tree that grows in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The main ingredient in the paste beads known as myrrh is a fragrant powder derived from the fruit of a tree that grows closer to the home of the beadmakers in the West African savanna belt south of the Sahara. In Mauritania, women often combine strands of these paste beads with strands of seeds in multistrand belts, called waist beads, which they wear under their skirts or wrappers. Thus muffled, their intense fragrance and their intriguing bumps and hollows only increase the seductive power of waist beads.

The beautiful hues of the flowers and fruits used in scented pastes seldom survive the paste-making process. Their colors are lost when their petals, stigmas, pulp, or leaves are commingled with other ingredients and slowly boiled down, then kneaded and molded, and dried in the sun. The beads that emerge are muted neutral shades, ranging from beige to brown and gray to charcoal, with only rarely a hint of red or yellow. So paste makers sometimes add dyes to brighten their products. Popular coral red paste beads made in Mauritania have a tantalizing spicy aroma, like gingerbread fresh out of the oven. They are known in the trade as Mauritanian coral, the poor woman’s substitute for Mediterranean coral. In Tunisia, heart-shaped shab beads, redolent of roses, are prized for their seductive powers. Their deep matte black coloring provides a perfect counterpoint to the shiny gold or silver filigree beads they are often strung with. In Senegal, women often dye myrrh beads black or green, or, especially, red. Sometimes scented beads are further embellished by embedding tiny seeds or bits of shell or coral in the paste before it dries, or by covering the ends of the beads with gold or silver caps.

Two animal-derived substances have traditionally played an important role in scented paste beads. Not only do musk and ambergris contribute their own distinctive odors, but they enhance the aroma of a compound paste, much as salt to taste enhances the flavor of ratatouille. Musk is a pungent glandular secretion of the male musk deer, a small, antlerless deer that lives in forested mountainous areas from the Himalayas through Siberia. When musk dries, it hardens and forms grains, which are usually dissolved in a tincture of alcohol for use in perfumery. Historically, musk was first mentioned in the 5th century, when the Talmud noted its fragrance. As demand for musk grew, it was carried over a network of trade routes from China and Southeast Asia to India and Arabia, and then to the Mediterranean world, along with other luxury items, such as frankincense and myrrh; nutmeg, cloves, saffron, and mace; aloeswood, ambergris, and other aromatics.

By the 19th century the price of top quality Tonkin musk from China and Tibet soared to about twice the cost of gold, and the low-end market turned increasingly to substitutes.  While genuine musk became prohibitively expensive for use in scented paste beads, other animals, notably the catlike civet, a native of tropical Africa, as well as a number of plants produce substances with a similar musky fragrance. Synthetic substitutes, known as white musk, were also developed. Natural musk continued to be used in expensive perfumes, however, until the trade abruptly came to an end in 1979, when the musk deer was declared an endangered species. Today the traffic in musk is tightly controlled, and illegal poaching is virtually its only source.

Ambergris is a dark, viscous substance that forms in the intestine of sperm whales. When it is expelled and exposed to seawater, air, and sunshine, it fades to gray, develops a sweetish earthy odor, hardens, and breaks up into waxy chunks. Like ambre jaune (yellow amber, the vegetal resin), ambre gris (gray amber, the animal-derived substance) is found floating in the ocean or washed up on shore. The older and more weathered the chunk, the better—and more expensive. It ages like fine wine, says ambergris connoisseur Bernard Perrin.

Ambergris has been used in perfumery since antiquity. It was also burned as incense in ancient Egypt, and in modern Egypt it is burned in aromatic cigarettes. In medieval Europe, ambergris was used to cure colds and epilepsy. During the Renaissance, it was formed into beads and worn as jewelry. And in the not so distant past, it was widely used in North Africa and the Middle East to enrich the scent of paste beads, making their aroma more intense and longer lasting. Like musk, however, ambergris became far too costly for village women to use to enhance the bouquet of home-made folk jewelry. It has now been largely replaced by synthetic substitutes, and today ambergris is used primarily as a fixative in fine French perfumes.

Thus historically, scented paste beads have involved fusing rare and exotic substances that came from afar with familiar materials found near home. Many of the ingredients as well as knowledge of how to use them traveled great distances, along with other valuable commodities, over fabled overland and maritime trade routes.

The Incense Route funneled aromatics and gum resins westward from earliest times. Later, it became a conduit not only for incense but for methods of making incense and for aromatic trees and herbs that were transplanted and took root in new lands. The Silk Road linked China via Central and South Asia to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, bringing trade goods from all the regions along its interconnected routes. While satins, brocades, and other rich fabrics gave the Silk Road its name and its fame, many other luxury products flowed over it, including saffron, musk, aloes, and other aromatics. In addition to all-important pepper, the Spice Routes ferried aromatic sandalwood, camphor, ambergris, and opium, as well as nutmeg and mace, cassia and cinnamon, cardamon, turmeric, ginger, and cloves from maritime Southeast Asia and India. Extending the network, trans-Saharan routes carried trade beads from Venice and cowrie shells southward from North Africa. Winding across the desert, camel caravans also carried incense, perfumes, and other aromatic products, such as spices and flower petals, to sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the means of transportation have changed, some of these overland and maritime routes are still being used today, to bring exotic materials from eastern sources to makers of aromatic pastes. But scented beads are also a fusion of old and new. Formulas change from generation to generation and also with the times. When traditional ingredients grow too rare or too costly, they are replaced by new ingredients, materials that are widely available and more affordable. But many old and some new ingredients, such as perfumes from India or synthetics from Europe or America, still come from distant places. Today, however, most of these imports travel by freighter or plane, then truck or train to reach the beadmaker’s village.

So artisans continue to craft scented beads in rural regions in Africa and the Middle East. And not only do women continue to enjoy wearing them, scented jewelry gives men pleasure as well. These remarkable beads are a treat for the senses. The sight of these beads on an attractive woman sparks the first sensation. As she moves, sight is enlivened by sound—the soft rattle of the beads, the tinkle of dangles, and the jingle of bells that the beads are strung with. The size of the beads, their shape, and their texture inspire a desire to touch them. The aroma of the beads, intensified by their contact with body oils and the warmth of skin, heightens the sense of smell, which spills over into the sense of taste. Thus the response these beads evoke is a fusion of sensations—of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.

 

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See Also: Myrrh Beads


Cloves on a north African necklace.
Robert K. Liu

Scented beads (Eucalyptus?) from Africa.
Robert K. Liu

Necklace beads made of scented resin paste.
Cas Webber
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Schneider, Don

Donald Jay Schneider received his BA in Music Education from Eastern Michigan University in 1972 and has been working with glass since the early 1970’s. The Plymouth Michigan based bead artist, musician and former educator loves to experiment and independently developed distinctive styles incorporating borosilicate tubing and rod. Most known for his subtle colors and technical skills, Don uses trailing, feathering and millefiori mosaic techniques to decorate his beads. Don Schneider’s work appeared in Ornament Magazine in the Autumn 1980 issue, in Glass Studio #35 in 1982, in the catalog of the Bead Museum’s 1993 exhibit of Contemporary Glass Beadmakers, and in the catalog of the Society of Glass Beadmakers Gathering in San Francisco in 1994.

We welcome more current information about Don Schneider and his beads.

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Mosaic and glass tubing bead by Don Schneider.
Robert K. Liu

Assortment of glass beads by Don Schneider.
Robert K. Liu
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Sculpey

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See: Polymer Clay

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Sea Urchin Spines

Information to come...

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Large sea urchin spine beads from Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu
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Seed Beads

Information to come...

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Strands of seed beads.
Robert K. Liu

Various shapes and sizes of seed beads.
Cas Webber
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Serpentine

Serpentine is named for its variegated green patterning, which sometimes resembles snakeskin. Mottled shades of green, from light yellowish to apple green to gray-brown to deep olive green, with a greasy or waxy luster – color and texture that make serpentine easy to mistake for jade.

Banded or grained and usually opaque; however, bowenite (sometimes called “new jade”) is a translucent variety carved extensively in China, while rarer williamsite (or “Pennsylvania jade”) is transparent with black inclusions.

Much softer and easier to work than jade, serpentine has been carved into beads, ornaments, and other decorative objects since ancient times. This hydrous magnesium silicate sometimes occurs in combination with marble, and varieties with names like verd antique and Connemara are used for wall facing and table surfaces. Indeed, what looks like green marble is often almost solid serpentine.

Found worldwide in igneous and metamorphic rocks from India, China, and New Zealand to England, Canada, Vermont, and New York.

Serpentine amulets were worn to ward off snakebite, while serpentine drinking vessels were thought to have the power to protect one against poisonous potions. More generally, the stone has been used since antiquity as a traveler’s talisman, and as such, serpentine was placed in tombs to guard the souls of the departed on their journey to the afterlife. In the American Southwest, serpentine has been carved into fetishes since prehistoric times.

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Classic multicolored serpentine beads.
Cas Webber

New Jade, a variety of serpentine.
Cas Webber
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Sharps Needle

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See: Needles

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Shell Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Abalone Shell Conus Shell Naga Shell Pendants Dentalium Shell African Shell Beads


Mauritanian conus shell tip beads.
Robert K. Liu

Assorted contemporary shell beads from the Philippines.
Cas Webber

Spondylus (orange) and other shell beads from Peru.
Robert K. Liu
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Shell Beads and Pendants—Pre-Columbian Sinu Culture

Marine shells were among the prime materials for jewelry in the pre-Columbian Americas; the SinzxUAG (600-1600 AD) were extremely talented in the making of shell ornaments. This array includes beads and pendants of many shapes, including unusual ones, some like bullets or buttons. Included are spacers, for aligning multiple strands of beads; flat plaques and tabs. Not shown are the long slices of shells used as pendants, as well as ones simulating teeth of mammals. While many of these shell ornaments are in a deteriorated condition, it is probable that shells such as Strombus and Spondylus were among those used. Mixed in among the shell beads are some of stone. SinzxUAG shell ornaments can range from 0.5 cm diameter to over 17 cm long.

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See Also: Shell Beads


Array of pre-Columbian Sinu shell beads and pendants, including a terracotta spindle whorl.
Robert K. Liu
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Sheperd hook earwires

Simple earwires shaped like a shepherd’s hook for making earrings.

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Shepherd hook earwires.
Cas Webber
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Shiva’s Eye Beads

Information to come...

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Shell beads known as Shiva’s eye beads.
Cas Webber
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Signet Beads

Information to come...

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Ancient stone signet beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Silk Beading Cord

Silk beading cord has been the traditional material for stringing beads for centuries. Pure natural silk, made from high-grade fibers feels soft and smooth. Silk thread has moderate tensile strength and stretch. Necklaces strung on silk drape smoothly. Natural silk is more lustrous than most other cords for knotting pearls and other gemstones. Some silk cord on cards comes with a twisted wire needle conveniently attached. Silk is typically used to tie knots between pearls to keep them from rubbing together and damaging their nacre, but it is also used for many other beading projects. Unless otherwise indicated, silk thread should be pre-stretched. See our How to section for details.

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The most popular brand of German silk beading cord for knotting between beads.
Cas Webber
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Silver

Information to come...

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See Also: Bali Beads Indian Silver Beads Thai Silver


Large Indian silver beads.
Cas Webber

Small antiqued Indian silver beads.
Cas Webber

Sterling silver beads from India and Thailand.
Cas Webber
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Silver-Lined

Information to come...

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Crystal clear silver lined seed beads.
Cas Webber

Black diamond (transparent gray) silver lined seed beads.
Cas Webber
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Simulations and Copies

Simulations and copies are meant be close enough to the originals to be acceptable to the communities that made and/or used the originals. They were made for profit as the copies were generally mass produced and/or used less costly materials than the originals. Today, however, some copies and simulations have become collectors items, surpassing the originals in value when they are more scarce than the originals. For example, unusual copies of chevron beads can be more important to collectors than the relatively plentiful originals. Simulations and copies of beads were produced extensively during the period when Europeans explored, and later controlled colonies in, Africa. Some simulations, such as Idar-Oberstein Talhakimt and pressed agate glass beads, were widely accepted, produced in quantity and remain relatively common and popular today. Others were not well accepted, such as glass imitaitons of amber and painted imitaitons of chevrons. Ironically, these originally unacceptable copies are rare and thus have become collectible.

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See Also: Replicas of Ancient Stone Beads From The Middle East Coral Simulations Hippo Teeth Talhakimt

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Smokey Quartz

Smoky gray, brown, or black in color, probably caused by natural radiation during the stone’s formation. Smoky quartz is found worldwide, including Scotland (now largely worked out), Switzerland, Brazil, Japan, and the US.

This stone is believed to be a source of strength, energy, and endurance.

More information to come...

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Smoky quartz beads.
Cas Webber
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Snail Beads

Information to come...

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Venetian glass beads that resemble small snail shells.
Robert K. Liu
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Snail Shell Disk Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Clamshell Disk Beads Coconut Shell Disk Beads Disk Beads Heishi Ostrich Eggshell Disk Beads

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Snake Beads

Interlocking beads with a zig-zag profile that were made in Europe for the African trade. Made both by the Prosser method and of molded glass, these beads come primarily in two sizes: approximately 6 and 10 mm in diameter and in a variety of colors including black, coral, turquoise, cobalt blue, brown, and mustard yellow. Green, pink and other colors occur more rarely. Several different molds were used by different manufacturers so that beads from one stand may or may not interlock with those from another. These beads, like the vinyl heishi, are an example of European glass beadmakers catering to the preferences of their African customers. Real snake vertabrae had been used in Africa for ages so the beadmakers’ scouts surmised correctly that multicolored glass snake beads would also be popular.

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See Also: Bapterosses Beads Bohemian Pressed Glass Pressed Glass Beads

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Snake Chain

Snake chain owes its name to its resemblance to a snake both in looks and flexibility. It is made up of dense links that have been drawn. It may be round or flattened, and comes in many different diameters.

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Silver snake chain is smooth and flexible.
Cas Webber
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Snake Vertebrae

Beads made from the vertebrae of snakes. Poular in West African and exported via the African bead trade, the best of these beads are smooth with age and interlock seamlessly. Less desirable examples are probably the result of road-kill and tend to be less flexible, possibly made from the bones of several different snakes.

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Real snake vertebrae beads.

Cas Webber
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Snowflake Obsidian

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Pendant featuring snowflake obsidian.
Cas Webber
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Sodalite

Named for its sodium content, sodalite is medium- to very dark denim blue, with variable gray to creamy white calcite inclusions in the form of striations and patches. It is opaque to translucent with a vitreous to greasy luster. Usually found in volcanic formations, sodalite is one of the mineral components of lapis lazuli and may be confused with that stone, especially since sodalite can also contain pyrite, which is often considered a hallmark of lapis. Sodalite was a valuable commodity in pre-Contact South America. Today it is a relatively inexpensive gemstone widely used in beads, cabochons, figurines, and inlaid boxes. Principle deposits are in Canada and Brazil; also the US, India, Norway, and Namibia.

Sodalite was used in ancient Egypt to absolve guilt, dispel fear, and strengthen the power of mind over body. The white veins symbolize spiritual enlightenment.

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Round sodalite beads.
Cas Webber
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Soft Flex

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See: Cable Wire

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Soft Touch

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See: Cable Wire

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Spacers

Information to come...

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See Also: Spacers--pre-Columbian


Balinese sterling silver spacers, various shapes and sizes with granulated decoration and more.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Peruvian steatite and bone spacers, most likely from the north coast and possibly of the Moche culture; largest 2.2 cm wide and all decorated with circle/dot motifs.
Robert K. Liu
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Spacers--pre-Colombian

Spacers are an important type of bead with multiple parallel perforations, that enable multi-strand necklaces to maintain their shape in an orderly manner. Spacers were used in many cultures and are just as important to today’s necklace designers. Pre-Columbian cultures made spacers out of shell, stone, bone and metal, some of the latter being of considerable size. Copper spacers configured the large disk bead necklaces of the Moche at Sipán in Peru (Donnan 1993). These necklaces for the elite were as large and complex as ancient Egyptian broadcollars. The cast gold spacers of the Tairona of Colombia were beautiful examples of art and lost-wax casting (Liu 1995). But many spacers were small, such as the bone and stone ones that illustrate this entry. While many of the prehistoric cultures of the Americas utilized spacer beads, some, such as the ancient Peruvians, also constructed complex multi-strand necklaces without such devices, by using innovative stringing techniques (Liu 2008).

References: Donnan, Christopher B. 1993 Royal tombs of Sipán. Moche ornaments of Peru. Ornament 17 (1): 44-49, 115 Liu, R.K. 1995 Collectible Beads, A Universal Aesthetic. Vista, Ornament Inc.: 256 p. —2008 Ancient shell ornaments of the Americas. Ornament 31 (4): 50-55.

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See Also: Spacers


Peruvian steatite and bone spacers, most likely from the north coast and possibly of the Moche culture; largest 2.2 cm wide and all decorated with circle/dot motifs.
Robert K. Liu
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Spindle Whorls

Information to come...

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Ancient Ecuadorian spindle whorls.
Robert K. Liu
Freshwater Pearls Beads, Pearl Jewelry, baltimore, maryland, virginia, va, md, dc
Contemporary clay spindle whorls from Mali.
Cas Webber
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Split Ring

Information to come...

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Split rings look like miniature key rings and are a more secure alternative to jump rings for connecting clasps and dangles.
Cas Webber
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Split Ring Opener

Split ring pliers provide an easy way to open split rings. Simply place the bent nose in the center of the ring, apply pressure, and the split ring slides apart. These pliers are available with or without springs.

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Split ring opener make easy work of attaching charms with split rings.
Cas Webber
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Spondylus Shell Beads

Information to come...

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Blue Nueva Cadiz beads and indigenous spondylus shell beads from pre-Columbian Peru.
Robert K. Liu

Spondylus shell and spondylus shell beads.
Robert K. Liu

Purple spondylus shell and beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Spool Beads

Cylindrical beads that have a concave profile and flaring ends are aptly called spool beads or capstan beads. These terms have also been used to describe Chinese erhtang and similar ancient ear ornaments found in Korea, Egypt, and pre-Columbian America. Those are not really beads, however; they are spool-shaped ear ornaments, some of which are perforated longitudinally.

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See Also: Ear Spools Ear Spools—Ancient Chinese Erhtang

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Spring Ring Clasp

Spring ring clasps feature a spring loaded trigger that opens and closes the clasp. These small but relatively secure clasps are suitable for delicate necklaces, bracelets, and anklets.

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Spring ring clasps.
Cas Webber
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Spring Wire

Spring wire, often called memory wire or coil wire, is a relatively hard spring steel wire that has been coiled into rings of a particular size to fit a person’s finger, wrist, or neck. Memory wire is available in three finishes: Regular (dull), Bright (shiny), and Stainless Steel (rustproof).

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Coil or "spring wire" that maintains its shape.
Cas Webber

Silvertone spring wire also known as memory wire because it holds its coiled shape.
Cas Webber
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Stamping

The metalwork technique called stamping involves striking a punch or a die into sheet metal with a hand-held hammer or mechanical pressure. This process has several applications in making jewelry: impressing, blanking, and embossing. The metals used in stamping are relatively soft, primarily gold or silver alloys, but base metals, such as copper and brass or pewter alloys, are also appropriate.

 IMPRESSION STAMPING

With a single blow of a lightweight hammer on a pattern-bearing punch, a smith can impress a well-defined design in smooth sheet metal. Impression stamping is generally used to make decorative patterns in metal or give it texture, but it is also used to imprint marks that are utilitarian rather than ornamental, such as a hallmark guaranteeing the fineness of the metal, stamps showing the place or date of manufacture, or the maker’s mark displaying the name or symbol of the artisan.

A smith usually keeps a variety of patterned punches available for impression stamping. The punches may be commercial products with standard designs. A smith may also make his own punches by hand-engraving designs in the ends of steel rods. Or he may improvise and adapt other tools in his workshop to add to his collection. A professional impression punch consists of a short, sturdy rod of tool-grade steel, about 3½ to 4 inches long and up to ¾ inch in diameter. The pattern projects from the working end of the punch in rather sharp outline to ensure that it makes a good impression on the softer metal when struck with a hammer.

The usual choice of a hammer for impression stamping is one that has a broad face to hit the punch yet is not too heavy for hours of work in the studio. The slender shaft ends in a pistol grip handle, which balances the head and makes the hammer springy, so that it slaps the punch. To achieve clear, sharp impressions, the annealed metal must be placed on a firm support—a steel block or an anvil—and struck with one well-aimed blow. A second blow in the same spot could blur the image. To create textural background areas, however, the pattern may be repeated in closely packed ranks or overlapping formations. After flat sheet metal has been stamped, it can be gently hammered with a soft mallet into a shaping block or mold to give it three-dimensional form.

BLANKING

In another application, a smith can use a sharp-edged blanking punch or a one- or two-part blanking die to shear blanks from sheet metal—either smooth flat shapes or three-dimensional forms. He can rapidly stamp out a series of identical shapes or, by changing dies, he can stamp out blanks in a variety of shapes and sizes. Flat blanks are frequently made in precise geometric shapes—circles, squares, triangles, diamonds. They are subsequently embellished with surface decoration and then used as dangles, links, or other jewelry components.

Blanks with volume tend to display the more fluid contours of the natural world—leaves, flowers, almonds, mangoes. These three-dimensional forms are often closed off by soldering a flat piece of metal to the back; or two identical or mirror-image forms are soldered together. When these pieces are made of thin metal, the hollow inside is often filled with lac, sealing wax, or a similar substance to give them weight and reinforce them against denting. Certain decorative features, such as wire soldered around the perimeter seam, also serve to strengthen them. These units also have multiple uses as jewelry components.

EMBOSSING

Lastly, a smith can use embossing punches or dies to hammer sheet metal into three-dimensional designs, a technique that is called in cameo if the design is raised, or in intaglio if it is depressed. Embossing creates a sense of depth and also provides recesses for enamel, niello, or inlay work. One- or two-part dies with depressed, or cut out, patterns, are generally made of brass or bronze of varying thickness, depending on their use.

In embossing, a smith can work sheet metal from either side in order to produce either in cameo or in intaglio designs. When using a punch, he must place the sheet metal on a resilient material, such as leather, lead, or pitch. If he is working with large pieces, he will often punch into the supporting material first in order to create a cradle to support the metal. When using a die to make an in cameo relief pattern on sheet metal, a smith will choose a brass or bronze die, about ½ inch thick, that bears an in intaglio relief of the desired pattern. After placing the die on an anvil or steel block, he places his annealed sheet metal on top of die, and on top of that he places a ¼-thick sheet, or several thin sheets, of lead. He then hammers the whole with a fairly heavy hammer with a slightly convex face—not so heavy as to fracture the die, but heavy enough to force the metal to fill the depressions and make a full and well-defined relief image.

Embossing was used as early as the 2nd century BC, when the Greeks used closed two-part dies to manufacture coinage with in cameo relief patterns on both sides. Ever since, this technique has been used to manufacture coins, both genuine and imitation, with relief patterns on both sides, and both types have been widely used in jewelry.

JEWELRY DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

Stamping developed in antiquity, probably evolving from repoussage, an even older process. The two techniques are similar. Repoussé work is unique, however, one of a kind, whereas stamping enables a metalsmith to make numerous identical impressions, to produce numerous identical shapes, and to create numerous identical patterns in relief—with far less labor. In short, stamping was a method of mass production. And it has had profound effects not only on the design but on the construction of metal jewelry.

The various applications of stamping fostered metal jewelry that made prolific use of stamped patterns and stamped components in ancient Greece, during the Renaissance, and in the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution ushered in machine stamping. Stamped elements were repeated, alternated, and combined to form larger units, which were in turn repeated, alternated, and combined. Today, this progression from small to ever larger components is still an important feature in the construction of ethnic jewelry where traditional craft still survives, as in India. And the principles of componential design have found new expression in the fabrication of contemporary jewelry.

The repetition, rotation, arrangement, rearrangement, and combination of patterns and forms create jewelry that has a sense not only of richness and abundance, but of movement, life, and rhythm—jewelry that has a similarity to music. Taking the analogy further, the jewelry artist working with stamped components, choosing motifs, shapes, sizes, is not unlike the composer choosing notes, key, tempo. And in the case of both artists, the measure of their creative genius lies in how they assemble the constituent elements of their craft, the one making jewelry, and the other music, in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

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Star Beads

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See: Chevron Beads

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Starburst Beads

Information to come...

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Chinese glass starburst beads.
Robert K. Liu

Starburst beads, Chinese glass with mosaic and lampworked designs.
Robert K. Liu

Three starburst beads: lower and left bead are old; bead on the right is a new replica.
Robert K. Liu
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Sterling Silver

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See: Silver

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Strawberry Quartz

A pink or reddish dyed quartz or glass that imitatates stone. Generally when a stone has two names, it’s an indication that the material is not what it might seem to be.

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Stretch Magic™

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See: Elastic Cord

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String Tag

String tags are useful for pricing and labeling jewelry or strands of beads. A small card is attached to the piece with a fine string. Cards are available in a range of sizes to accommodate different amounts of information. Tiny tags are subtle and inconspicuous.

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Suede Lace

Suede lace is often used in jewelry as well as in Native American and Western wear. It is a flat strip of suede that works well for choker-style necklaces with a pendant. It can be tied or finished with a leather clasp, but the ends of the lace may first have to be trimmed to fit. Suede lace and imitation suede lace are available in a wide variety of colors.

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Suede lace comes in a variety of colors for use in jewelry design and for suspending pendants. An animal friendly ultrasuede lace is also available.
Cas Webber
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Sunstone

Sunstone contains flecks of hematite that reflect light and make this orange-red stone sparkle. India, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States all export sunstone. Norse texts state that Vikings may have used sunstone to catch sunlight and help navigate the seas when landmarks were out of sight. This sparkly orange stone can enhance autumn-colored jewelry.

Sunstone lessens the depression caused by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Keep sunstone with you at all times if you have difficulty saying “no” when people ask for favors. If procrastination is keeping you from reaching your goals, sunstone will overcome it.

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Superlon

Superlon is a strong and durable nylon thread. Its flexibility and fray-resistance make it poular for seed bead stitches, whether on- or off-loom. Beeswax helps when threading Superlon through the eye of a #13 or larger beading needle.

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Superlon beading cord comes in an extensive array of subtle and bright colors.
Cas Webber
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Supplemax™

Supplemax™ Nylon Bead Stringing Material is useful for fashioning “illusion” and “floating” designs. Extra soft and supple, this product is made especially for bead stringing. It is ideal for stringing plastic, wood, most glass and other non-abrasive beads.

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Supplemax brand clear bead stringing cord for "floating bead" necklaces.
Cas Webber
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Swarovski Crystal

Information to come...

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An assortment of Swarovski crystals.
Robert K. Liu

An assortment of Swarovski crystal shapes and sizes.
Cas Webber
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Tabular Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads


Various tabular Chinese glass beads.
Robert K. Liu

Antique Chinese glass tabular bead from a Mandarin court necklace.
Robert K. Liu
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Tairona Beads

The Tairona culture, which developed in what is present day Columbia, is renowned for its skilled craftspeople, especially its premier lapidaries, who were among the finest of the pre-Columbian Americas. While they rarely worked jadeite, the culturally and ritually most important stone in Meso-America, they were skilled in working both soft and hardstones, including carnelian, other agates, and rock crystal.

They created unusual ornaments with unique shapes, such as broadwing and bullet-shaped pendants, as well as those shaped like insect larvae, or gusanos. Among the most enigmatic of their ornaments are those shaped like an inverted Y, at times simplified in smaller examples to a V form. These pendants may be as short as 1.0 cm, or as long as 3.8 cm. They are found in clear rock crystal or carnelian. In view of the widespread amuletic powers that were attributed to frogs and toads in pre-Columbian cultures, it is possible that such Y- and V-shaped pendants are stylized frogs or tree frogs. Comparing these pendants to frog amulets in shell and gold, when one observes a gradual series, one finds a reasonable similarity and thus support for this theory.

Tairona stoneworkers also crafted long cylindrical and barrel beads, often flared at the ends, from these same materials. The beads with flared ends are a lapidary tour de force, even more difficult to make than the long, tapering bicones of ancient Sumer and the Indus Valley. The examples shown are well over 10 cm long. Beads with high polish and color are more highly valued. They are considered vivo or live, while those with a dull finish and muted colors are regarded as muerte or dead.

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Pre-Columbian Tairona hardstone beads.
Robert K. Liu

Pre-Columbian Tairona carnelian and quartz crystal Y-shaped pendants, probably representing frogs.
Robert K. Liu
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Talhakimt

Talhakimt comprise one of the most interesting categories of ornaments. Not only have they been made in a number of different materials, they reflect the economic struggles between the third world and European colonial powers. And they are unique in being a category of pendants that were mounted in metal as jewelry. The stone bead industries of India and Germany, and the pressed glass and/or porcelain manufacturers of France, Germany, Austria, and Italy were all competitors, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their economic battles could be tracked because some of the products were clearly imitations of the products of others.

Working in Dafur, Sudan, in the 1930s, the British scholar and former colonial administrator A. J. Arkell identified two main types of Tuareg ornaments—the talhakimt/talhatana and the tanaghilit, or metal Cross of Agadez—that were worn as pendants. By the early 20th century, talhakimt and its variations, roughly shaped like an arrowhead affixed to a ring, were available in either Indian- or German-made agate versions, pressed porcelain-like examples made in a number of European countries, and celluloid plastic ones from Germany, as well as the occasional home-made specimen.

The original talhakimt were probably derived from Indian agate signet rings, possibly dating to the 18th century, or from Indian archers’ rings, as seen in the Pitt Rivers Museum collection. This early type was modified into the Indian talhatana form, made of lapidary-worked carnelian. Europeans adapted elements of both forms into their agate, plastic, and molded Prosser copies, with varying degrees of fidelity; they also incorporated changes or colors not in the prototypes. While the numerous imitations of talhakimt were based on rings, virtually all of them were worn by the Tuareg and other Africans as pendants, either strung onto necklaces or worn in hairdos. Intact talhakimt were sometimes embellished or protected with silver. Broken talhakimt, however, were often mended by Taureg smiths, who set the parts in metal, a practice that is perhaps unique among African jewelers. (The largest example shown is 14.2 cm long.)

Water-wheels supplied cheap power for the stonecutters of Idar-Oberstein, contributing to the efficiency of their agate-cutting mills. Beginning around 1830 to 1840, they were able to overtake the Indian industry. Soon, however, the even cheaper molding method of the Prosser technique produced even less expensive copies, surpassing the German industry.

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See Also: Bohemian Pressed Glass Prosser Beads Idar-Oberstein Tuareg Pendants


Two German-made carnelian talhakimt one set in silver, one unmounted and one Prosser talhakimt.
Robert K. Liu

Talhakimt made in Idar-Oberstein, mounted in silver by Tuareg smiths.
Robert K. Liu
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Talismans

Information to come...

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Teeth Beads

Hunters have always adorned themselves with trophies including teeth, horns, claws, bones and fur. Large canine teeth, said to be from large and ferocious baboons, were popular enough in West Africa to warrant being imitated by the creative and entrepreneurial Bohemian (Czech?) pressed glass beadmakers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Intrepid agents from the European bead factories and workshops traveled throughout Africa and the Middle East on a mission to discover which local beads were most prized. They returned to Europe with samples to be replicated and sold to colonial powers and others who traded in these regions. Sometimes the copies were meant to imitate the originals as closely as possible, but sometimes, as in the case of Wedding Beads, the idea was to expand the palette considerably in an attempt to expand the market.

Today many of these reproductions are quite rare and are sometimes more valuable than the more plentiful originals. The author admits to discarding as worthless fakes, rare glass reproductions of Mail Amber, painted porcelain and Chevron imitations, that she wishes she still had today!

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Real tooth bead above and replica below.
Robert K. Liu

Real tooth bead above and fake below. From Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Thai Silver

Thai silver beads have very unique stamps and other decorations that set them apart from Indian silver or sterling silver. They were likely first made in what is now Thailand in the first centuries AD. There are still a few groups in this area today who make their living from hand-crafting silver beads in the technique that has been handed down from generation to generation.

There are two types of Thai silver beads, both sometimes called Hill Tribe silver after the people who have traditionally made them. One type used medium weight sheet silver to create the hollow beads. The other type uses much thinner silver and fills the beads to give them structural stability.

The process for making filled beads involves creating beads from thin strips of pure silver, filling the inside with tree resin for strength and then creating the designs by hand. Pure silver gives the beads a soft, brushed look. The shapes of the beads and the various designs used are closely related to Thai and Khmer religious and village traditions, which were, in turn, heavily influenced by the prominent Indian culture of the time when they were first created.

More information to come...

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Assorted contemporary Hill Tribe silver beads from Thailand.
Robert K. Liu

Hill Tribe silver strands including cornerless cube and woven metal designs.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary Thai Hill Tribe silver pendant using traditional techniques.
Cas Webber
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Thread Conditioner

Information to come...

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Three Hole Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Guru Beads


Chinese lapidary-worked glass bead. Mandarin court necklace component.
Robert K. Liu
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Tibetan Brass

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Tibetan amulets.
Robert K. Liu
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Tiger Iron

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Tiger Iron beads.
Cas Webber
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Tiger’s Eye

Light golden yellow to dark brown in zones and striations, tigereye is a crystalline quartz colored by brown iron oxides. It is opaque with the silky sheen of mother-of-pearl. Fibrous inclusions cause the cat’s eye effect, which is best displayed in a cabochon cut and large beads. South Africa; also Australia, Burma, India, and the US are the main producers.

Tigereye is believed to promote clear vision and insight, and brings good luck in speculations and games of chance.

More information to come...

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Tiger’s Eye beads.
Cas Webber
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Tigertail™

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See: Cable Wire

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Toggle Clasps

Clasps composed of a ring and a bar, where the bar passes through the ring at an angle then rests against the ring to keep the necklace together.

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Sterling silver toggle clasp.
Cas Webber

D-shaped toggle clasp.
Cas Webber

Copper toggle clasps.
Cas Webber
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Toggles and Dangles—Chinese

Many objects were portrayed on Chinese belt toggles. These small carvings or ornaments were used to secure objects, like tobacco pouches/pipes, to men’s belts, like the better-known Japanese netsuke. While serving a utilitarian function, many toggles also represented of important symbolic themes. Shown are miniature gourds, two in wood, one of enameled metal, either silver or copper (5.4 to 6.0 cm long). Because gourds are symbols of longevity, and some larger ones held coin change, such toggles are found in many materials, including stone and glass. All toggles are collectible and somelike netsuke, command large sums. There are also smaller examples of gourds, which may not have served as toggles but were used as dangles, on such toiletry items like moustache combs.

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See Also: Netsuke


Antique Chinese wood and enamel gourd-shaped toggles or dangles 5.4 to 6cm long.
Robert K. Liu
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Tourmalated Quartz

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Tourmaleted quartz beads showing black needle-like inclusions.
Cas Webber
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Tourmaline

Tourmaline comes from turmali a Singhalese term for “mixed precious stones,” because of it’s bewildering variety of colors. Transparent to translucent crystals may display two or three colors running vertically along their length, or forming concentric zones in a horizontal cross section, watermelon tourmaline being a prime example. Tourmaline’s broad spectrum embraces some of the most delicate, dazzling hues in the mineral kingdom: Gradations of pink to red range from pale rose and shocking pink to ruddy brown and rich red-violet; yellows and oranges include subtle shades of peach and salmon; blue tones include lilac, aqua, teal, and inky indigo but rarely true blue; while greens run the gamut from pale peridot to brilliant emerald to ever darker forest green that merges into jet black. Very hard, heavy, and tough, with a vitreous to resinous luster.

The different varieties often go by different names, such as rubellite (pink to red), verdelite (green), and indicolite (blue). In cross sections, “watermelon tourmaline” shows a green “rind,” surrounding a narrow band of zone, then a pink-red core. Cat’s eye tourmaline contains foreign crystals, which cause a chatoyant effect when the stone is cut in cabochon. Still other varieties change color from yellowish green in daylight to reddish orange under artificial light, and colors can be permanently altered by heating. Many crystals exhibit polarity, so that the two ends of the crystal differ in color, structure, and electrical properties. Tourmaline’s great complexity provoked John Ruskin, 19th century writer, artist, and amateur naturalist, to exclaim, “The chemistry of it is more like a medieval doctor’s prescription than the making of a respectable mineral.”

Known in the classical Mediterranean world, tourmaline was introduced into modern Europe early in the 18th century by the Dutch, who imported the mineral from Sri Lanka. Besides valuing its ornamental qualities, the Dutch appreciated the stone’s electrical peculiarities: When a crystal is rubbed, the heat and pressure create an electrical charge so that one end of the crystal is positive and the other is negative, and the stone will attract particles of dust or small bits of paper. Practical burghers found charged crystals handy to pull the ashes out of their meerschaum pipes, and tourmaline became popularly known as aschentrekker, or ash-puller. These pyro- and piezoelectric properties, as they are scientifically called, make tourmaline useful today in high-pressure gauges, such as those used in submarines.

Found worldwide in granite formations and alluvial deposits, tourmaline was probably first exploited in Sri Lanka, but the primary source today is Brazil. Also occurs in Mozambique and the Malagasy Republic, in Burma and India, in Nigeria and Namibia, in Russia’s Ural Mountains and on the Italian island of Elba. In the US, colorful varieties are found in Maine and California.

Black tourmaline is said to deflect negative energy and encourage a positive attitude no matter the circumstances. Different colors of tourmaline possess different metaphysical properties. Pink tourmaline resonates with feminine energy. It helps with loving yourself so that you can be open to receiving love from others. Green tourmaline has a beneficial influence on a person’s physical well-being. It is ideal for channeling nature’s healing power.

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Trade Beads

Trade beads can refer to any of a number of different beads used throughout history as currency. They can also be any bead that is given a name by those who found them or those who collect them. These beads became markers for the travel patterns of many different cultures. Shells were among the first beads used as currency and date back several thousand years B.C.

The coming of Europeans to North America introduced glass beads to the trade scene. Early in the North American glass bead trade, the Spanish carried with them two types of beads that later helped determine their presence in a certain area. One was a small seven layered chevron and the other came to be called Nueva Cadiz beads after the site where they were first identified. Other common trade beads found along the Atlantic coast were green hearts with an opaque red coat over a translucent green core, “gooseberry beads” with white stripes in a clear base which followed the slave trade and “flush eyes” which were rounded drawn beads decorated with fancy mosaic chips to look like eyes.

Later various kinds of trade beads from the manufacturing centers of Europe, mostly Venice and Bohemia, were of great economic and cultural importance in Africa and Asia.

More information to come...

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See Also: Chevron Beads Millefiori Beads Mosaic Beads Bohemian Pressed Glass Pressed Glass Beads Venetian Trade Beads


Unusual colors and shape in Venetian glass trade bead.
Robert K. Liu

Twisted Nueva Cadiz beads traded by the Spanish in Peru.
Robert K. Liu

Lampworked Venetian trade beads.
Cas Webber
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Trade Wind Beads

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See Also: Arikamedu

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Tri-Cord Knotter

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See: Knotting Tool

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Tuareg Amulets

Information to come...

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See Also: Tuareg Pendants Amulets Talismans


Three square Tuareg metal amulets.
Robert K. Liu

Two mixed-metal Tuareg amulets, one with leather, from north Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Tuareg Pendants

The Tuareg smiths of Mauritania, Niger and several neighboring countries are remarkable in their skills with metals, leather and imported ornaments, producing a variety of amulets, charm cases and crosses. See Talhakimt for more information.

Shown here are two types of tcherot cases or talismanic boxes; those with the pointed lower projections are based on the gerba or traditional goatskin water container. They use silver, brass, copper and steel, along with leather; the larger is 3.5 cm tall. The square ones are fabricated of silver sweated onto brass, attached to a backing of steel or copper; these are 4.4 to 6.0 cms high. At times, gilded brass is used instead of silver sheet. The Tuareg are perhaps best known for their crosses of Agadez and Trarza, as in the example shown with pierced and engraved silver sheet attached to an ebony backing with rivets, 4.9 cms tall. These crosses have numerous variants.

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See Also: Talhakimt


Two tcherot cases, shaped like traditional goatskin water containers
Robert K. Liu

Cross of Trarza, of silver riveted onto a backing of ebony wood, also from Mauritania.
Robert K. Liu

Three tcherot or talismanic boxes from Mauritanian Tuaregs, often worn by both sexes.
Robert K. Liu
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Turkoman Beads

Information to come...

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Partially fire-gilded Turkoman bead.
Robert K. Liu

Three classic Turkoman bead shapes. Silver with various kinds of decoration and fire gilding.
Robert K. Liu

Turkoman pendant with carnelian.
Cas Webber
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Turquoise

Turquoise comes from the French pierre turquoise, or Turkish stone, because the trade route that brought it from Central Asia to Europe passed through Turkey. Found in a range of vivid opaque sky blues to blue-greens, turquoise has been prized by cultures in every age and every region—by the ancient Egyptians and Persians, Tibetans and Chinese, Aztecs and Incas, and contemporary Native Americans.

A hydrous copper aluminum phosphate, turquoise occurs as veins and nodules deposited by groundwater in rocks in arid regions. The blue is attributable to copper, and green to the presence of iron. Turquoise matrix consists of other minerals or fragments of host rock that show up as fine lines, flecks, or patches, which are mostly black, dark gray, or brown. Turquoise from the Southwest has a waxy luster and comes in all shades of blue to green, usually with some matrix present. Turquoise from Iran tends to be a uniform pale to medium blue, is more dense, and takes a high polish.

Usually found at or near the surface and hence easy to exploit, turquoise was one of the first gems to be mined, with deposits in the Sinai being worked by the Egyptians more than 6000 years ago. But demand exceeded production, it seems, for turquoise inspired one of the earliest known gemstone imitations in the form of blue and green glazed steatite found in graves of the same period. And people have been altering and imitating turquoise ever since.

Turquoise is relatively soft, porous, and friable. These properties made it susceptible to scratches, breakage, and color changes—from heat, light, perspiration, body oils, cosmetics, or loss of natural water content. They also make turquoise amenable to all kinds of enhancement. For instance, color can be intensified simply by tumble polishing or by electrochemical treatment. Color can also be altered with aniline dyes or copper salts, and matrix darkened by inking. Animal fat was once used to preserve a stone’s color by sealing its pores, but the fat could “sweat” out on a warm day. The modern way to stabilize color is to impregnate turquoise with plastic resins, which also serves to strengthen the stone. Reconstituted turquoise, sometimes called block, consists of crushed turquoise bound by resins. Outright imitations include synthesized turquoise (quite rare) and dyed howlite (rather common), as well as glass, ceramic, and plastic look-alikes. All these efforts attest to turquoise’s enduring attraction.

Over the millennia turquoise has come from far-flung sources. The Sinai deposits were exhausted by 4000 BC. The source of the finest turquoise is Iran, where it has been mined for 3000 years Today, however, the US takes the prize as its the biggest producer. Turquoise is also found in Australia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, Tanzania, Israel, Mexico, and Peru.

Cultures around the world have looked on turquoise as a sacred stone that guards the soul in various ways. Middle Eastern lore considers turquoise a lucky stone that protects against the evil eye. For Native Americans, turquoise serves as an intermediary with the Great Spirit of the sky.

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See Also: Block Turquoise—Dyed Turquoise—Reconstituted Turquoise—Stabilized


Various shapes and colors of Chinese turquoise beads.
Cas Webber

Very large and very small Chinese turquoise beads.
Robert K. Liu

Green turquoise donuts with typical brown matrix.
Cas Webber
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Turquoise—Dyed

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See Also: Turquoise Turquoise—Reconstituted Turquoise—Stabilized

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Turquoise—Reconstituted

Information to come...

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See Also: Block Fetishes—Native American Turquoise Turquoise—Dyed Turquoise—Stabilized

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Turquoise—Stabilized

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See Also: Fetishes—Native American Turquoise Turquoise—Dyed Turquoise—Reconstituted

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Tweezers

Jewelry tweezers are helpful when tying knots between beads or placing knots in bead tips. Because the points are very fine and smooth, these tweezers can guide a knot exactly where it should go without damaging the cord.

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Beading tweezers.
Cas Webber
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Twisted Wire Needle

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See: Needles

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Udjat

Information to come...

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See Also: Egyptian Amulets


Egyptian udjat eye beads in various materials.
Robert K. Liu
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Unakite

Unakite is an opaque green jasper with inclusions ranging from creamy orange to deep pink. This metamorphosed igneous rock is composed of quartz, feldspar, and abundant epidote, which gives it its distinctive opaque pistachio or olive-like color. The feldspar contributes the soft shades of orange, pink, and cream occurring in spots, striations, or zones. Colors and patterns combine to make an unusually attractive ornamental stone.

The United States is the largest producer of unakite. More specifically, it comes from Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, where it is found in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. It probably takes its name from the Unaka Mountains, on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, which in turn take their name from the Cherokee term unaker, which is a clay they used to make pottery.

The Cherokee may well have tales to tell, but we have yet to unearth any lore on unakite. Pondering its sources with their mountain streams, however, an old angler we know thinks that unakite may be a lucky stone for fishermen.

In New Age healing, unakite treats reproductive issues and facilitates a healthy pregnancy. It also aids in the gradual elimination of bad habits like overeating and alcoholism—so it may not be a lucky stone for our old fisherman.

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V-Slot Clamp

A V-slot clamp has a V-shaped indentation that helps you keep a firm grip on jewelry components when filing, sawing, or drilling them.

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Varanasi, India

A holy city on the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India where Hindus travel on pilgrimage to undergo ritual purification in the river. Rudraksha and ivory beads have been made there for over 1000 years. Glass beadmaking was introduced by the Czechs in 1941 and Varanasi has since developed into a major glass bead and bangle making center. Many Indian beads are consumed locally, but some are exported to the U.S. and Europe as well as Africa and Southeast Asia. Indian beadmakers initially made simple mostly monochrome wound and drawn beads, but by the 1980’s they were imitating Venetian mosaic and lampworked designs. With emphasis on quantity and affordability, rather than quality, the results never matched the originals and only fooled the least educated consumers. Indian beads are often easily identified by the thick coating of white bead release that clings to their perforations. This clay-like material is used to coat the metal rods on which wound beads are formed. It keeps the molten glass from sticking to the metal.

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Variscite

Variscite is beautiful blue-green to yellow-green in color, translucent to opaque, with a glassy to waxy luster. It is an aluminum phosphate and often forms nodules in association with other phosphate minerals. These intricately banded, highly textured masses can exceed three feet in diameter. Variscite sometimes also occurs inter-grown with quartz and chalcedony, a mixture known in the trade as “amatrix,” for American matrix. Relatively soft, light, and brittle, variscite is usually cut into ornamental slabs and polished, or carved into cabochons, which are used in Western style jewelry.

Variscite is also called Utahlite after its principal source. Most important deposits are in Utah but this stone is also found in Nevada and Arkansas, and in Bolivia, Austria, and Australia.

Variscite is sometimes thought to be a variety of turquoise, a myth that is encouraged by trade names like “Nevada turquoise.” Double names for gemstones (such as Swiss lapis or Australian ruby) should alert buyers to beware, because very often the stone is not what the name would imply.

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Vaseline Beads

Vaseline beads come from West Africa, but were actually made in Bohemia and Czechoslovakia in the early 1900’s. They get their name from American collectors referring to the common green and yellow color of the glass used to make them. This glass was typically colored with uranium salt from the area where they were made. In the 1940’s the use of uranium was banned, causing the use of new coloring agents. Czech glass beadmakers created Vaseline beads as they transferred their expertise in grinding stones to their glass bead industry. Vaseline beads were made with a hand-held mold that left a perforation. They were then put on a stick to grind on the facets. True green and yellow Vaseline beads will fluoresce brightly under a blacklight because of the uranium salts.

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Vaseline beads made in Bohemia traded to Africa.
Robert K. Liu
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Venetian Lampworked Beads

Information to come...

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Fancy Venetian lampworked beads, probably made for the European market.
Robert K. Liu

Examples of classic Venetian lampworked glass beads from the 18th through 20th centuries. Such beads were traded in Africa and the Americas.
Robert K. Liu

Fancy Venetian lampoworked beads for the European market.
Robert K. Liu
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Venetian Mosaic Beads

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Venetian mosaic trade bead with unusual red stripes.
Robert K. Liu

Unusual Venetian tabular mosaic trade beads.
Robert K. Liu

Newer Venetian mosaic beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Venetian Trade Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Venetian Mosaic Beads Venetian Lampworked Beads Millefiori Beads


Unusual millefiori bead using both murini and longer sections of the cane coated in red, note same patterns exposed there canes are cut.
Robert K. Liu

Venetian Mosaic beads, unusual shapes and patterns.
Robert K. Liu

Examples of classic Venetian lampworked glass beads from the 18th through 20th centuries. Such beads were traded in Africa and the Americas.


Robert K. Liu
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Vermeil

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Balinese vermeil spacers bars with granulation.
Robert K. Liu

Vermeil openwork bead from Bali, Indonesia.
Robert K. Liu

Vermeil beads from India and Thailand with bright and antiqued finishes.
Cas Webber
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Vintage Glass Beads

This term usually refers to pressed glass beads made before about 1960 in Bohemia or southern Germany. As makers in the Czech Republic revive old glass recipes and old molds it has become harder to tell new pressed glass from vintage. In general vintage colors are more subtle and varied than new ones, more agate glass is used and the finishes on the beads are often satiny rather than either high gloss or acid etched matte. More information to come...

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See Also: Bohemian Pressed Glass


Vintage European pressed glass beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Vinyl Heishi

Information to come...

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See Also: Heishi


Vinyl heishi from the African trade.
Cas Webber
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Voulkos, Pier

Information to come...

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Waist Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Myrrh Beads, Scented Beads

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Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese

Until the last century, it was believed that the Chinese did not even make glass beads. But we now know that glass beadmaking became an indigenous craft in the Zhou Dynasty, and China developed into an important maker and trader of glass beads. After subsequently declining, the industry experienced a major revival in the late 20th century. Monochrome glass was probably first known in the middle Zhou Dynasty. It was most prominent in the Warring States Period, circa 500 BC. Its origins, however, are still unknown.

The glass and composite beads of this time were unique, in that they are among the most complex and precise beads ever made, but they were produced only for a short period of time (circa 475–220 BC). Many of the glass beads had eyes, which were often stratified, even horned, and sometimes accompanied by rosettes and other decorative features, such as lines of microdots. The same design motifs were often mirrored by contemporaneous composite beads, which had a faience core that was covered by multiple firings of low-fired glazes. Because of the complexity and precision of the glass eye beads, many modern craftspeople believe that preformed components were necessary.

Such Warring States beads have often been replicated, some faithfully, some as inspirations. Here we show examples of ancient Chinese eye beads, some composite and some glass. The more complex specimens are rare and images were not available.

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ceramic and Polymer Imitations Warring States Beads—Comparative Patterns and Shapes Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Ancient Chinese Warring States beads of glass or composite structure.
Robert K. Liu

Examples of ancient composite eye beads (2.2 cm high) compared to glass eye beads and a single glass eye bead.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Chinese Warring States glass bead with rosettes, 1.9 cm diameter.
Robert K. Liu
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Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations

Information to come...

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Ceramic and Polymer Imitations Warring States Beads—Comparative Patterns and Shapes


Contemporary glass replica of Warring States horned eye bead by Tom Holland.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary glass imitations of Chinese Warring States eye beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Warring States Beads—Ceramic and Polymer Imitations

Because of their rarity and beauty, Chinese Warring States beads have been widely imitated in polymer clay, glass, and ceramic. All copies in polymer are, in essence, homage to these beads or attempts to understand how they were made. The two polymer examples shown demonstrate stratified and/or horned eyes. The bead on the right is modeled after perhaps the most perfect example of a glass stratified and horned eye bead, which was probably made by using preformed components and lapidary techniques. The original was 1.9 cm high; the imitation, made by well-known polymer artist Kathleen Dustin, is 2.8 cm high.

The ceramic examples were made by Chinese craftspeople, most likely with government sanction, to be sold to tourists. They are made of low-fired terracotta and would not fool knowledgeable collectors; however, one of the two was actually bought as an antique.

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Comparative Patterns and Shapes Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Two polymer clay replicas of Warring States beads by Kathleen Dustin.
Robert K. Liu

Terracotta copies of Warring States beads made in China (2.6 to 2.8 cm high).
Robert K. Liu
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Warring States Beads—Comparative Patterns and Shapes

While ancient Chinese glass or composite beads made during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) may bear the same types of decorations as contemporaneous Western glass beads, they usually differ widely in their level of crafting. Both of the spherical beads shown below have rosettes, in fact, rosettes with seven dots each. In the Chinese example the green dots are raised, while the blue dots on the bead from Anatolia (present-day Turkey) are flush. The placement of the dots within each rosette, however, and the placement of the rosettes themselves are both very precise in the East Asian example, compared to the less precise workmanship seen in the bead from Asia Minor. The latter bead may possibly be earlier, dating to between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. Comparison is often a good tool to show such differences. Except for the eyes, the glass in both beads has weathered to the extent that its original color cannot be ascertained.

During the 3rd century BC, in the late Warring States Period of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty, unique cubical or rectangular glass beads appeared. They usually feature stratified eyes on the edges of the beads. The predominant color combinations are blue-and-white stratified eyes on a white or reddish brown matrix. These Chinese beads range in size from 1.2 to 1.8 cm in length. Almost all of them have two stratified eyes on each edge near the corners, for a total of eight eyes in all. Merovingian Germany also made square-section eye beads. The eyes are usually simple, but they are not placed on the edges of the beads. Not until recent times do we again find square-section glass beads, when rectangular shapes reappeared among Venetian beads made for the colonial trade.

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See Also: Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Ceramic and Polymer Imitations Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


Ancient Chinese Warring States glass eye bead with rosettes, 1.9 cm diameter.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient glass eye bead with rosettes from Anatolia, 2.0 cm diameter.
Robert K. Liu

Ancient Chinese Warring States eye beads with square cross sections.
Robert K. Liu
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Watermelon Beads

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African traders include these striped beads with watermelon beads. Although they similar in size and shape, actual watermelon beads are pinched chevron beads featuring light and dark green or teal coloring similar to watermelons and red and white chevron
Cas Webber
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Waxed Linen

Waxed Linen works cord well for dream catchers, mandalas, and macramé, in addition to being a good cord for some bead stringing projects. It is moderately strong and waxed just enough to be manageable but not sticky, but it does stretch. Waxed linen is available in a variety of attractive colors in addition to black, white, and natural.

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Wedding Beads

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See: Fulani Wedding Beads

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Wedding Cake Beads

Information to come...

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Fancy Venetian lampworked beads, sometimes called wedding cake beads for their over-the-top decoration.
Robert K. Liu

Venetian glass wedding cake style beads.
Robert K. Liu
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White Heart Beads

Information to come...

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Newer white heart beads from the African trade.
Cas Webber
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White Metal

Information to come...

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See Also: Alpaca Silver Nickel Silver German Silver


White metal beads from Mali in Africa.
Cas Webber
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Wide-Eye Needle

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See: Needles

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Wig Jig

Wig Jigs are clear acrylic squares that come in various sizes and have a series of holes covering their surface. By inserting pegs of different diameters into different holes and then bending your wire around them, you can create a variety of unique wire links, clasps and other findings. Because the squares are clear, placing patterns behind them can help you make specific designs.

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Wig jig tool for making and exactly duplicating wire clasps, earwires and connectors.
Cas Webber

Wig Jig pegs for making loops and links of various sizes.
Cas Webber
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Wire Protectors

Information to come...

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Wire protectors insulate beading wire or cord from friction against the clasp.
Cas Webber
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Wire Wrapping

Information to come...

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Wood Beads

Information to come...

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See Also: Inlaid Beads—Wood Ebony Beads


Chinese carved bead.
Robert K. Liu

Various wood beads from the Philippines.
Robert K. Liu

Contemporary inlaid wood beads.
Robert K. Liu
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Wulfenite

Wulfenite was named for Franz X. von Wulfen (1728-1805), an Austrian Jesuit priest and mineralogist. This rare and beautiful gem occurs in transparent to translucent tones of honey-yellow, warm orange, and glowing red, as well as shades of brown, gray, and green. A lead molybdate mineral, wulfenite is soft and very heavy. Its stubby, often tabular, tetragonal crystals range from paper thin to relatively thick, and are brittle and hard to cut.

Wulfenite crystals are prized by collectors because of their color and brilliant adamantine luster, which shifts to resinous or greasy in fractures. Rough wulfenite crystals, especially the lovely yellow ones from Austria, are sometimes set in jewelry.

Usually found in the oxidation zone of lead deposits, wulfenite occurs in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania; Zaire and Namibia; Arizona, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. It is also found in Morocco, Algeria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Australia, Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.

Some people probably think that wulfenite crystals taste as good as they look, because they often look like nothing so much as mouth-watering wafers of butterscotch candy.

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Yellow Jasper

Information to come...

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Yellow Jasper beads.
Cas Webber
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Yemeni Silver Beads

Centuries-Old Craftsmanship

At the southern tip of the Arabian Desert, Yemen juts into the Gulf of Aden, which links the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. For thousands of years, Yemen served as a crossroads of land and sea routes between Africa, Asia, and Europe, for the movement of goods and peoples and the diffusion of technology, art, religion, and ideas. This cross-cultural contact left its mark on Yemeni jewelry, which incorporates a great variety of motifs with varied meanings. Historically, the finest work was crafted by Jewish silversmiths, largely for Muslim clients, not only in Yemen but throughout the Middle East. They used precious materials from distant sources and metalworking techniques that go back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Legend says that Jewish traders first settled in Yemen in the 10th century BC, after King Solomon sent ships south to fabled Ophir in pursuit of trade, and the Queen of Sheba returned the visit, traveling to Jerusalem via camel caravan, bearing gold, gemstones, and those prized Yemeni products, frankincense and myrrh. In time, Jews came to flourish as craftsmen in Yemen, excelling as gold- and silversmiths until the mid-20th century. Then, in 1949-50, virtually all the Jews in Yemen left for Israel. Before departing, however, Jewish smiths trained their Arab counterparts, who strive to carry on the proud legacy of Yemeni craftsmanship. While it is difficult to determine the origin and dates of much Middle Eastern jewelry, Yemeni pieces are distinguished by their quality, and to this day, the finest are praised as “Jewish work.”

Forms and Functions

Besides enhancing a woman’s beauty, traditional Yemeni jewelry reflects her cultural environment. It shows what ethnic or religious group she belongs to, whether her husband is poor or prosperous, which town or village she is from or whether she is a nomadic Bedouin. The uses of traditional jewelry afford insights into the patterns of traditional life. Personal ornaments play a role in the age-old rituals of securing a spouse, celebrating a marriage, welcoming a birth, protecting against evil, and praising God.

Marriage contracts were customarily sealed with bridewealth, mainly silver jewelry. Provided by the groom, it becomes the wife’s property, ensuring her economic security. From time to time she may add to it with a gift from her husband, by making household economies, or by using the proceeds from the sale of a rug she has woven to acquire more jewelry. In time of need, a woman may sell some of her jewelry.

The most spectacular array of jewelry was traditionally worn by Jewish brides of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Swathed in gold brocade, the young bride, who may not have even reached puberty, was so weighted with jewelry she could scarcely move. Rings encircled her fingers, bracelets encased her arms, and strands of huge gilt silver beads, called dugag, enveloped her body from neck to waist, which was enclosed in a silver belt hung with bells; ropes of pearls and gold pendants hung from her temples; an elaborate bib necklace, called a labbeh, wreathed her chin; and crowning all was a high tiara framed in fresh flowers and layered with shimmering white pearls, precious red coral, black beads, and gold filigree dangles. Called tishluk lu’lu’, this towering headdress gave its name to the entire ensemble. Other festive occasions when a woman displayed pieces from her jewelry collection included the henna painting ceremony before the wedding and the Sabbath when she first received visitors after childbirth.

Huge silver spheres adorned with barley patterns were the most prominent feature of the wedding regalia of Jewish brides. These silver beads were popular among Muslim women, but ordinarily Jewish women didn’t wear them. They preferred jewelry with wheat designs. On her wedding day, however, the Jewish bride wore many strands of these beads, both plain and gilt silver—she was embellished all over with barley motifs. The use of these beads in the Jewish wedding ensemble enlisted the power of the “Other” for added protection of the bride during the perilous transition from girlhood to womanhood. Conversely, pregnant Muslim women often wore Jewish jewelry to ward off the evil eye and ensure a healthy child. In yet another example of cross-dressing, so to speak, the traditional finery of Yemeni Muslim brides included large cubical beads of amber; these beads were also sought after by Jewish mothers, who hung them round the necks of their children or sewed them to their clothing as amulets.

Bedouin and village women wear a great deal of jewelry while milking goats, weaving rugs, grinding grain, or kneading dough. Massive silver bracelets are always worn in pairs, sometimes five pairs or more. Although they look heavy, they are usually hollow and are relatively light. Anklets are also worn in pairs, while multiple rings adorn fingers and toes. Nose ornaments include large beaded hoops hung with dangles, long pendants inlaid with glass beads, and silver studs in the nostrils. Hoops hung with dangles also decorate ears; often multiple hoops are worn through the ears or suspended from a chain that passes over the head.

Protective ornaments have many forms and functions. Cylindrical or rectangular amulet cases are also sewn to children’s clothing, and a woman’s necklace may incorporate several such cases. The cylindrical cases are called hirz by Muslims and ktab (pl. kutub) by Jews. Some may be opened for the insertion of sacred verses from the Koran or Jewish scripture. Others are left empty and soldered shut. The cases themselves are believed to be invested with amuletic powers that not only can turn away malevolent forces but can attract benevolent ones. Similarly, reciting the 99 attributes of God while counting their 99 prayer beads, the Muslim faithful invoke divine protection as well as divine blessings. And as a woman moves through the bazaar, the tinkle of tiny bells and swish of silver dangles is protective as well as seductive, as is the aroma of scented jewelry intensified by body heat—sound, motion, and smell can repel mischief-making jinn and at the same time attract the glance of passing admirers.

Motifs and Meanings

Rich in symbolism, the opulent ornamentation of Yemeni jewelry echoes Islamic expression in other arts—the lush floral patterns of Persian rugs, the dazzling geometric designs of tile mosaics, the curving lines of calligraphy. Animal and human motifs are rare and highly stylized. A notable exception is the eye, which is widely used to counter the malevolent gaze of the evil eye and deflect it from the wearer. Reduced to its essence in the form of dots and circles, the eye often embellishes dark wood prayer beads in the form of silver piqué work or adorns a silver pendant as a luminous gemstone cabochon. The hand of Fatima also turns away evil, as do arrowlike triangles and swinging tassels. The sun, the moon, and the stars are Islamic astral motifs. The six-pointed Star of David is a mystical Jewish symbol.

Many motifs recall primeval forms of human adornment—seeds, fruit, leaves, flowers. These symbols of nature endure in Yemeni jewelry as stylized rosettes, foliage, grain, almonds, berries, and mangos. While their specific meanings are often unknown, these motifs are associated with general well-being. Grain and pomegranates, bursting with juicy seeds, are symbols of abundance and fertility. Wheat and barley are also linked to women’s daily task of grinding grain to make bread, the basic staple of the Yemeni diet. The Jewish preference for wheat motifs can be traced to the Bible, which tells that barley was used as fodder for Solomon’s horses. Jewish silversmiths were learned craftsmen who knew the significance of each motif—its magical attributes and connection to Koranic or Talmudic texts—and they matched their designs to their clients. Today much of this lore has been lost, and the meaning of many motifs lies buried in the collective unconscious.

Materials and Techniques

Every large village once had a resident silversmith who made jewelry for all patrons. Some craftsmen traveled the surrounding desert to serve the nomadic Bedouin. But over time, silversmiths, like much of the population, migrated to the cities where they set up shop in the suq as both artisan and merchant, with clients all over the Middle East. The largest community of Yemeni smiths congregated in Sana’a, the capital, where several hundred Jews once worked in the silver suq. Their silver supply consisted in large part of recycled silver. In the Arab world, jewelry is not heirloomed, that is, a woman’s bridewealth is not passed down from generation to generation. Rather, when she dies her jewelry is sold to the smith, and the proceeds from such a sale can help a family purchase new jewelry for a new bride when the occasion arises. For his part, the smith puts the jewelry in a burn bag and melts it down as needed to replenish his silver supply.

Since the mid-1700s, the principal source of the silver used in Middle Eastern jewelry has traditionally been silver coins, preponderantly the Maria Theresa thaler, named for the Queen of Bohemia and Hungary. Because the thaler’s standards of weight and fineness were rigorously maintained, it became a standard of value that is widely used in Asia and Africa. After Maria Theresa died in 1780, coins bearing that date continued to be struck. About 200 million thalers were estimated to be in circulation in Yemen and Ethiopia in 1900. And to this day they continue to be struck and Yemeni smiths continue to draw on this huge pool of thaler, with its stable silver content of about 85%, to regulate the quality of their silver. Recently Middle Eastern smiths have accessed yet a third source of supply, silver ingots from China.

The clientele of the smiths is varied, and they vary their work accordingly, tailoring it to their customers’ resources as well as their tastes. Since Bedouins are generally poorer than farmers, Bedouin jewelry is generally made of lower grade silver than the jewelry of settled folk, and red glass, or sometimes jasper or carnelian, is used instead of coral. While the jewelry Yemeni smiths made for their Muslim peers was often similar to what they made for their fellow Jews, they tended to lavish more time and effort on Jewish pieces, crafting elaborate filigree elements, for example, instead of using easily made stamped parts. For pieces commissioned by high-ranking Muslim clients, Jewish jewelers worked in high karat gold instead of gilt silver or simply silver, and used pearls, Mediterranean coral, and high-quality gemstones.

The tools of the Yemeni silversmith’s trade have remained essentially the same over thousands of years of Middle Eastern metalworking. His basic toolkit is simple: a wooden block, a hammer and anvil, along with chisels to cut, awls to pierce, punches, stamps, and burnishers, as well as a blowpipe or bellows, a melting crucible, and molds of some sort.

Fundamental to his work is the fabrication of flat sheet, grains and shot, and wire. These are the basic elements from which he constructs his jewelry. He then turns to his vast repertoire of techniques to create rich surface ornamentation: hammering and annealing; casting and soldering; repoussé, chasing, and engraving; embossing, punching, and stamping; appliqué and openwork; granulation and filigree. Using a dapping block and a punch, the smith creates hemispheres from silver sheet. Then soldering two hemispheres together he creates beads which he subsequently decorates, using wirework and granulation. He also uses granules and shot as structural elements to reinforce joints of sheet or wire. In addition, he makes small cubical beads called tut entirely from shot soldered together. Using wire of various gauges, he makes chains, loops, links, and rings to assemble the various components.

Traditional Yemeni jewelry is made up of myriad components, rich in detail and decoration. Besides being used to link elements together and suspend pendants, chain is also used for decoration: short lengths serve as fringe, long lengths swing from headdresses, and delicate links are an integral ornamental feature of bib necklaces. Yemeni jewelry is also characterized by a profusion of pendants, plaques, bells, and dangles in many different shapes. As many as five or more amulet cases may be strung along with other components in a single necklace. Exotic coins are also prominently displayed—Ottoman, Arab, French, Indian, but especially Maria Theresa thaler. They are hung from necklaces either as simple pendants or embellished with dangles. Flat surfaces provide a perfect canvas for smiths who find empty space abhorrent, and pendants, caps, plaques, spacers, and triangular terminals are typically encrusted with abstract and vegetal ornamentation created by granulation, appliqué, and filigree.

Pearls from the Persian Gulf and gemstone beads, especially red-orange carnelian from India, are occasionally used in Yemeni jewelry. But coral of various colors, most notably precious red coral from the Mediterranean, has always been the material of choice to complement the silversmith’s work. In addition, red is a symbol of beauty and youth and is believed to have protective powers. Coral beads are often interspersed with another distinctive Yemini bead, a solid silver octagonal bead the size of a pea, called mithamminah. Coral pieces are also set in bezels on amulet cases or plaques. Today precious coral has grown scarce and become expensive, however, and red glass beads and cabochons are often used instead. Other exotic materials that Middle Eastern jewelers have had access to since times of the Silk Road include amber from the Baltic, ivory from Africa, gold, and gemstones. Among the more humble materials they sometimes use in jewelry are cowrie shells, faux amber, and scented beads made of local plant materials, such as myrhh and cloves.

Traditional Jewelry Today

In the rapidly evolving Middle East, much has changed in the six decades since the Jewish smiths left Yemen. Traditional silver jewelry is disappearing, as is the traditional world in which it was created and used. The demand is now for gold. Upscale urban dwellers’ desire for gold is usually satisfied by contemporary jewelry made in Italy. while rural folk’s lust for glitter lures them to cheap costume jewelry. And although some of the traditional wedding finery is worn on special occasions, for the marriage ceremony, the bride usually wears a modern white wedding gown.

Because Yemeni families do not heirloom a deceased woman’s bridewealth but sell it to smiths who recycle the silver, examples of traditional silver jewelry more than a generation old are rare. In large urban suqs, however, a few elderly silversmiths remain. Masters of their craft, they continue to use traditional techniques to produce traditional designs in the face of modernity, mass production, and a dwindling clientele. And if a knowledgeable collector or dealer is lucky he may find a good piece in stock, or better yet, she may be allowed to rummage through the burn bag and save a treasure or two from the fire.


 

9/27/2009 : 2010-02-02 modified



Yemeni silver bead with applied repoussé decoration.
Robert K. Liu
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Zephyr Glass

Information to come...

9/27/2009 : 9/27/2009 modified



Fumed glass beads by Zephyr glass studio.
Robert K. Liu
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Zircon

Zircon is a gem and industrial mineral. Its name is of obscure origin, but is possibly derived from the Persian for “gold colored.” It is also known as jacinth, or hyacinth, and jargoon.

Zircon is usually found as reddish- to yellowish-brown granules, but occasionally it is green or gray, or may even be colorless. It ranges from dull and opaque to transparent with a high adamantine luster. The latter variety is of gemstone quality. A long-standing practice in Southeast Asia has been to heat zircon river pebbles in primitive kilns, sometimes several times over, in order to change their natural red or orange color to golden yellow or pastel blue, or make them perfectly clear and colorless. Today Bangkok has become a high-tech center for heat enhancement and zircon cutting.

Hard, heavy, and brittle, zircon crystals consist of short tetragonal (four-sided) prisms, terminating in pyramids at both ends. With a very high refractive index and optical dispersion that approaches that of a diamond, a zircon can rival the fiery brilliance and color play of that most fabled of precious stones.

Since ancient times high-quality zircon has been used as an ornamental gemstone. Carved examples have been recovered from early archaeological sites; jacinth is mentioned in the Bible (Exodus 28:19) as one of the stones adorning the high priest’s breastplate; and faceted zircons have been a feature of South Asian jewelry for centuries. In a modern application, zirconium metal derived from non-gem quality zircon is used in space-age alloys.

By no means a rare mineral, zircon occurs worldwide in igneous rocks or concentrated in alluvial deposits in the form of small grains. Gemstone varieties are found primarily in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and to a lesser extent in Russia and France, New Zealand, and Australia, Tanzania, and the Malagasy Republic. Minuscule zircon crystals are found in beach sands in North Carolina and Florida.

Renowned in medieval times as a palliative, zircon was reputed to help women in childbirth. Most of the stone’s manifold powers, however, were specifically reserved for men. Thus zircon amulets protected the stronger sex against bad dreams and evil spirits, stimulated male appetites yet suppressed male fat, fortified men’s hearts and bodies, lulled them to sleep, and banished their sadness.

9/27/2009 : 9/27/2009 modified


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Zoomorphic Beads

Since time immemorial, artists have crafted zoomorphic beads, or beads in the shape of animals, which are sometimes natural representations, and sometimes symbolic. Many contemporary glass beadmakers create sculptural animals, but few match the skill and realism of Japanese-American artist Patricia Clarke. She depicts many mammals, birds and fish, all with wit and warmth. Unlike many other sculptural animal beads that exhibit a cartoonish quality, hers are anatomically and behaviorally correct.

9/27/2009 : 2009-10-28 modified



Two contemporary glass cat beads by Patricia Clarke; the monochrome one is frosted. The black and white cat measures 3cm long.
Robert K. Liu

Comparison of ancient Egyptian and pre-Columbian crocodile and alligator beads.
Robert K. Liu

Turkoman horse pendant.
Cas Webber
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