Introduction 

In the late 1990s, Penny Diamanti, Joyce Diamanti and Robert K. Liu started working on a Bead Dictionary. Around 2009, after much work by the Diamantis, the Bead Dictionary was posted on the Beadazzled website. Through the years, additions were made by Beadazzled. In the summer of 2018, when the Washington DC Beadazzled store and its website closed, the Bead Dictionary was offered to Ornament. This is a unique resource, especially rich for information on beads of ethnographic and ancient origins. As Ornament has only a staff of three, we are slowly reposting it on our website, updating or expanding some of the entries and are adding search features, links and references as time permits. The Bead Dictionary covers primarily beads and other perforated ornaments, but also tools and materials used by those who make jewelry utilizing beads. Photographs from the Ornament archives are being added, as well as new images taken expressly for the Bead Dictionary and others are being brought up to current standards, as many of these images are almost 30 years old. Original photography was by Robert K. Liu, while Cas Webber did additional photos for Beadazzled,  noted in the captions as RKL or CW, after first captions.

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.  

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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.

See Also: Fumed Glass Iris Finish Swarovski Crystal

 

 Glass seed beads with AB finish. Photo: Cas Webber

Glass seed beads with AB finish. Photo: Cas Webber

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

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


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.

See Also: Mother-of-Pearl Pearls Shell Beads

 

 Abalone shell pendant. CW

Abalone shell pendant. CW


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.

See Also: Bauxite Beads

 Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana; bauxite is an aluminum bearing ore. CS

Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana; bauxite is an aluminum bearing ore. CS


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.


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

 

 Assortment of Ghanaian powder glass beads, primarily adjagba types, many with cruciform decorations and preformed elements, both indigenous and European. Largest bead ca. 5 cm long. Courtesy: Picard Collection. RKL

Assortment of Ghanaian powder glass beads, primarily adjagba types, many with cruciform decorations and preformed elements, both indigenous and European. Largest bead ca. 5 cm long. Courtesy: Picard Collection. RKL


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.

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

 Strand of ancient hardstone beads from Afghanistan, primarily tabular, with modern stringing; note the beauty of the stone patterns as revealed by their ancient makers. RKL

Strand of ancient hardstone beads from Afghanistan, primarily tabular, with modern stringing; note the beauty of the stone patterns as revealed by their ancient makers. RKL

 Array of ancient stone beads from Afghanistan, primarily hardstones, including two leech beads to the bottom right and a long bicone of the type made by Harappans. RKL

Array of ancient stone beads from Afghanistan, primarily hardstones, including two leech beads to the bottom right and a long bicone of the type made by Harappans. RKL

 Assortment of ancient stone and shell beads from Afghanistan, including etched beads, agate and carnelian. Note lapis beads, including spacer, very clear quartz crystal bead showing perforation and quartz crystal, pierced at top as pendant. RKL

Assortment of ancient stone and shell beads from Afghanistan, including etched beads, agate and carnelian. Note lapis beads, including spacer, very clear quartz crystal bead showing perforation and quartz crystal, pierced at top as pendant. RKL


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.

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

 Strand of ancient stone beads from Afghanistan, collected in the 1960s by David K. Liu, of non-precious stones but note excellent crafting. Loose beads are also ancient, from the 1980s, courtesy of the late J. L. Malter. RKL

Strand of ancient stone beads from Afghanistan, collected in the 1960s by David K. Liu, of non-precious stones but note excellent crafting. Loose beads are also ancient, from the 1980s, courtesy of the late J. L. Malter. RKL

 Closeup of ancient carved shell beads and pendants from Afghanistan; the Y-shaped pendants in the center are about 0.9cm long. Courtesy of Maryev and the late Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL

Closeup of ancient carved shell beads and pendants from Afghanistan; the Y-shaped pendants in the center are about 0.9cm long. Courtesy of Maryev and the late Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL

 Two contemporary Afghan beads from 2000, one of snowflake obsidian, versus two ancient ones, lower one of fossilized coral; largest 5.1 cm long. Courtesy of Beadazzled. RKL

Two contemporary Afghan beads from 2000, one of snowflake obsidian, versus two ancient ones, lower one of fossilized coral; largest 5.1 cm long. Courtesy of Beadazzled. RKL

 Ethnographic silver beads, components, amulet and necklace from Afghanistan; necklace uses shell and coral beads. RKL

Ethnographic silver beads, components, amulet and necklace from Afghanistan; necklace uses shell and coral beads. RKL


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.

See Also: Amber Burmese Amber Amber Amber Imitations

 Superb strand of copal and amber from Morocco, maximum size of beads 5.8 cm wide; note repair to beads by binding with metal wire or bands, or with corrugated staples. Courtesy of Wind River. RKL

Superb strand of copal and amber from Morocco, maximum size of beads 5.8 cm wide; note repair to beads by binding with metal wire or bands, or with corrugated staples. Courtesy of Wind River. RKL

 Two bakelite beads imitating copal or amber. CW

Two bakelite beads imitating copal or amber. CW

 Amber bead from Mali that has been repaired with wire staples. RKL

Amber bead from Mali that has been repaired with wire staples. RKL


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.
 
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, including Bohemian glass rings, Venetian millifiore and chevrons, with strand of powder glass Kiffa beads from Mauritania, made only by women. CW

Beads traded to Africa, including Bohemian glass rings, Venetian millifiore and chevrons, with strand of powder glass Kiffa beads from Mauritania, made only by women. CW

Beads traded to Africa, including Bohemian glass rings, Venetian millifiore and chevrons, with strand of powder glass Kiffa beads from Mauritania, made only by women. CW


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. In Nigeria, bottles are cold-worked, by regrounding and perforating to make pendants.

See Also: Powder Glass Beads, Bida Beads

 Recycled powder glass beads made by Krobo of Ghana in West Africa. CW

Recycled powder glass beads made by Krobo of Ghana in West Africa. CW

 Cylindrical African powder glass beads. RKL

Cylindrical African powder glass beads. RKL


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.

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 egg shell disk beads. CW

Ostrich egg shell disk beads. CW

 Beautiful strand of conus shell disks, strung as opposing pairs; such ornaments were probably never used like this. RKL

Beautiful strand of conus shell disks, strung as opposing pairs; such ornaments were probably never used like this. RKL

 Closeup of a strand of Arca shell beads, showing obverse and reverse sides; the bead to the lower left is a glass copy. These are known in the trade as hippo teeth, although these do not resemble the teeth of that aquatic animal. Glass copies were made by Europeans, probably Czech; they are flat on their reverse sides. RKL

Closeup of a strand of Arca shell beads, showing obverse and reverse sides; the bead to the lower left is a glass copy. These are known in the trade as hippo teeth, although these do not resemble the teeth of that aquatic animal. Glass copies were made by Europeans, probably Czech; they are flat on their reverse sides. RKL


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. 

 Rectangular pendant of African turquoise. CW

Rectangular pendant of African turquoise. CW


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. 

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


 Array of beautiful ancient agate tabular beads, most probably second to third millenium BCE, from the Middle East. Note the beautiful banding and patterns. RKL

Array of beautiful ancient agate tabular beads, most probably second to third millenium BCE, from the Middle East. Note the beautiful banding and patterns. RKL

 Array of vintage carnelian and agate beads, with colors enhanced by their makers, from Idar Oberstein in Germany. Note the precision of these wheel ground beads, with blanks usually cut by core drills. RKL

Array of vintage carnelian and agate beads, with colors enhanced by their makers, from Idar Oberstein in Germany. Note the precision of these wheel ground beads, with blanks usually cut by core drills. RKL

 Old or vintage Indian made small carnelian bead and pendants, with much lapidary grinding. RKL

Old or vintage Indian made small carnelian bead and pendants, with much lapidary grinding. RKL


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.  

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

 Tabular vintage European pressed/molded tabular pendants, called Fulani Wedding beads in the trade. CW

Tabular vintage European pressed/molded tabular pendants, called Fulani Wedding beads in the trade. CW

 Assortment of vintage European press/molded glass drop pendants of varying sizes, some simulating stone. RKL

Assortment of vintage European press/molded glass drop pendants of varying sizes, some simulating stone. RKL

 Array of European pressed glass beads and pendants. RKL

Array of European pressed glass beads and pendants. RKL


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.

 An array of dichroic, corded beads from Nigeria (6 medium blue on the right) and their Czech imitations on the left; the longest are 1.5 cm. The imitations are pressed or molded and are not of dichroic glass. RKL

An array of dichroic, corded beads from Nigeria (6 medium blue on the right) and their Czech imitations on the left; the longest are 1.5 cm. The imitations are pressed or molded and are not of dichroic glass. RKL

 Various dichroic glass segi/koli/cori beads from Africa, under reflected light. RKL

Various dichroic glass segi/koli/cori beads from Africa, under reflected light. RKL

 The same array of Nigerian dichroic glass beads photographed with both reflective and transiluminated light; the beads are now greenish-yellow, instead of varying shades of blue under only reflective light. RKL

The same array of Nigerian dichroic glass beads photographed with both reflective and transiluminated light; the beads are now greenish-yellow, instead of varying shades of blue under only reflective light. RKL


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

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

 An akoso powder glass bead, with a worn surface, so that the gray glass core shows partially; it is decorated with preformed glass threads. See Ornament issue 25 (2), Winter 2001, still available as a printed copy or pdf for detailed information on African powder-glass beads. RKL

An akoso powder glass bead, with a worn surface, so that the gray glass core shows partially; it is decorated with preformed glass threads. See Ornament issue 25 (2), Winter 2001, still available as a printed copy or pdf for detailed information on African powder-glass beads. RKL

 Assortment of Akoso beads, including five Venetian lampworked imitations on the right upper strand. The real akoso beads have preformed decorations of varying widths and colors. RKL

Assortment of Akoso beads, including five Venetian lampworked imitations on the right upper strand. The real akoso beads have preformed decorations of varying widths and colors. RKL


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.


Alloy Beads

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. 

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

 Brass or bronze lost-wax cast beads made from reclycled metal in Ghana. CW

Brass or bronze lost-wax cast beads made from reclycled metal in Ghana. CW


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.


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.


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.

 Cast and/or forged aluminum beads from East Africa. RKL

Cast and/or forged aluminum beads from East Africa. RKL


Amazonite Beads

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.


 Contemporary amazonite beads. Cas Webber

Contemporary amazonite beads. Cas Webber

 Four inner strands of amazonite beads, most likely ancient; outer strand contains amber and glass beads, as well as ancient amazonite pendants. Amazonite beads can be found in Mali and Mauritania. RKL

Four inner strands of amazonite beads, most likely ancient; outer strand contains amber and glass beads, as well as ancient amazonite pendants. Amazonite beads can be found in Mali and Mauritania. RKL


Amber Beads

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.  

See Also: Burmese Amber African Amber

 Baltic amber beads, showing the range of colors and shapes. CW

Baltic amber beads, showing the range of colors and shapes. CW

 A selection of loose Tibetan amber beads. RKL

A selection of loose Tibetan amber beads. RKL

 Ancient amber beads, note the extensive crazing. RKL

Ancient amber beads, note the extensive crazing. RKL


Ambroid

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


Amethyst Beads


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.

 Contemporary amethyst beads cut and drilled in Hong Kong. CW

Contemporary amethyst beads cut and drilled in Hong Kong. CW



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.

See Also: Amethyst Citrine


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.  

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. RKL

Nepalese Gao box amulet of silver and coral. RKL

 Tuareg amulets from North Africa made of silver, copper and leather. RKL

Tuareg amulets from North Africa made of silver, copper and leather. RKL

 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. Additional information on faience: Ornament issue 23 (3), Spring 2000; 32 (4) 2009. RKL

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. Additional information on faience: Ornament issue 23 (3), Spring 2000; 32 (4) 2009. RKL



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.  

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

 

 Ancient glass beads, with central strand mostly Islamic glass beads. CW

Ancient glass beads, with central strand mostly Islamic glass beads. CW

 Ancient faience beads from cultures around the world; top strands are from ancient Egypt. See Ornament 23/3, 2000 and 32/4, 2009. RKL

Ancient faience beads from cultures around the world; top strands are from ancient Egypt. See Ornament 23/3, 2000 and 32/4, 2009. RKL


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. 

See Also: Coral

 Angelskin coral beads. CW

Angelskin coral beads. CW


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.





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.


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. 

See Also: Celtic Ring Beads Ring Beads Ringperlen

 Various colors of Dogon donut annular beads, either Bohemian glass or Asian made, if obtained after the 1990s. RKL

Various colors of Dogon donut annular beads, either Bohemian glass or Asian made, if obtained after the 1990s. RKL

 Ethiopian rings of silver or brass, worn to denote religious affinity. RKL

Ethiopian rings of silver or brass, worn to denote religious affinity. RKL

 Glass ring bead or Ringperlen, possibly late La Tene, last two centuries BCE, from Europe, about 2 cm diameter. RKL

Glass ring bead or Ringperlen, possibly late La Tene, last two centuries BCE, from Europe, about 2 cm diameter. RKL


Anthropomorphic Beads

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

See Also: Phallic Pendants—Ancient and Contemporary

 Two Kokopelli borosilicate beads by Jennifer Wilson. RKL

Two Kokopelli borosilicate beads by Jennifer Wilson. RKL

 A Late Period Egyptian bicolor glass amulet of Osiris as a child. RKL

A Late Period Egyptian bicolor glass amulet of Osiris as a child. RKL







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.


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.


Apatite Beads

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.    

 Strand of faceted blue apatite rondelles. CW

Strand of faceted blue apatite rondelles. CW


Aquamarine Beads

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.

 Aquamarine beads. CW

Aquamarine beads. CW


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.  

 Contemporary lampworked glass beads with Arabesque-style decoration. CW

Contemporary lampworked glass beads with Arabesque-style decoration. CW

 Prisstine fancy Venetian lampworked beads with floral Arabesque decoration, including aventurine, probably made for the European market. RKL

Prisstine fancy Venetian lampworked beads with floral Arabesque decoration, including aventurine, probably made for the European market. RKL


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.

See Also: Indo-Pacific Beads


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.

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

 Contemporary art glass beads by Keith Kreitter (3 pendants), Bruce St. John Maher (scarab) and Donna Nova (leaf). CW

Contemporary art glass beads by Keith Kreitter (3 pendants), Bruce St. John Maher (scarab) and Donna Nova (leaf). CW


Asao, Kyoyu Beads

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.  

See Also: Japanese Beads

 

 Closeup, bead and components from the workshop of the late Kyoyu Asao, Japanese contemporary beadmaker. RKL

Closeup, bead and components from the workshop of the late Kyoyu Asao, Japanese contemporary beadmaker. RKL

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

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


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.  9/27/2009 : 9/27/2009 modified   See Also: Baoulé Brass Lost-Wax Casting in Africa

 

 Contemporary Ashanti gold-washed lost-wax cast bead. RKL

Contemporary Ashanti gold-washed lost-wax cast bead. RKL

 High karat lost-wax cast beads. RKL

High karat lost-wax cast beads. RKL


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.


Aurora Borealis Finish

See: AB Finish


Aventurine Beads

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.

 Green aventurine beads. Cas

Green aventurine beads. Cas


Aventurine Glass

See: Goldstone


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. 


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.

See Also: Agate Cambay    

 Babghoria Agate Pendant. RKL

Babghoria Agate Pendant. RKL


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.  

 Three silver pinch bails with granulated decoration. CW

Three silver pinch bails with granulated decoration. CW


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.

See Also: African Amber


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.

See Also: Filigree Granulation   

 Granulated silver beads, Bali, Indonesia. RKL

Granulated silver beads, Bali, Indonesia. RKL

 Silver and vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia. RKL

Silver and vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia. RKL

 Vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia. RKL

Vermeil beads from Bali, Indonesia. RKL


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.


Banchiang Beads


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.

 Ancient glass short bicone beads from Thailand. RKL

Ancient glass short bicone beads from Thailand. RKL


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. 

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

 Slab pendants of red banded agate. CW

Slab pendants of red banded agate. CW

 Black and white banded agate beads. CW

Black and white banded agate beads. CW

 Banded agate beads of varying shapes, mostly vintage. RKL

Banded agate beads of varying shapes, mostly vintage. RKL


Banten

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


Bauole 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.

See Also: Ashanti Gold   

 Contemporary Baoule brass beads that have been ground smooth on a polishing wheel. CW

Contemporary Baoule brass beads that have been ground smooth on a polishing wheel. CW

 Gold plated brass bead RKL

Gold plated brass bead RKL

 Vintage Baoule lost-wax cast brass pendants, many as bells. RKL

Vintage Baoule lost-wax cast brass pendants, many as bells. RKL


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. 

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

 Bapterrosses molded glass lion’s tooth on left compared to pierced actual African lion tooth on the right; note how glass imitation replicates the darker portion of canine tooth buried in the gums. Courtesy of the lated Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL

Bapterrosses molded glass lion’s tooth on left compared to pierced actual African lion tooth on the right; note how glass imitation replicates the darker portion of canine tooth buried in the gums. Courtesy of the lated Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL


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.


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.

 Carnelian barrel-shaped beads. CW

Carnelian barrel-shaped beads. CW


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.


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.

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

 Large (approx. 2.5 cm) white metal bicones from Mali, Africa. CW

Large (approx. 2.5 cm) white metal bicones from Mali, Africa. CW

 Tiny (approx. 1-2mm) copper beads from east Africa. CW

Tiny (approx. 1-2mm) copper beads from east Africa. CW

 Brass, copper, and white metal beads from Africa. CW

Brass, copper, and white metal beads from Africa. CW


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. 

See Also: dZi Beads Pumtek Beads   

 African and Indian batik bone beads. RKL

African and Indian batik bone beads. RKL

 Large East African batik bone bead. RKL

Large East African batik bone bead. RKL


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!” 

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

 Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana; bauxite is an aluminum ore. CW

Bauxite or abo beads from Ghana; bauxite is an aluminum ore. CW


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.


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.

 Bead board for designing and measuring beading patterns before stringing. CW

Bead board for designing and measuring beading patterns before stringing. CW


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.   

See Also: Cones   

 Copper bead caps. CW

Copper bead caps. CW

 Balinese sterling silver bead caps, assorted sizes. RKL

Balinese sterling silver bead caps, assorted sizes. RKL


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.


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.  

 Wooden beading loom. CW

Wooden beading loom. CW


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. 


 A set of bead reamers for enlarging or smoothing perforations in beads. CW

A set of bead reamers for enlarging or smoothing perforations in beads. CW


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.


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.     

 Bead stoppers used to keep beads from falling off the strand while necklace is in progress. CW

Bead stoppers used to keep beads from falling off the strand while necklace is in progress. CW


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. CW

 Bead tips used for securing cord to clasps. CW

Bead tips used for securing cord to clasps. CW


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. 

 Bead tip cement used for securing knots in bead tips. CW

Bead tip cement used for securing knots in bead tips. CW


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. 

See Also: Bead Loom


Beadalon Beading Wire

Instead of cord, many who string necklaces now use various kinds of braided stainless steel wire; Beadalon is one of the more popular brands.

See: Cable Wire    

 Spool of Beadalon brand cable wire for bead stringing. CW

Spool of Beadalon brand cable wire for bead stringing. CW


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. 

 Beaded bead of seed beads over a wooden core. RKL

Beaded bead of seed beads over a wooden core. RKL


Beading Needle

There are many types of thin metal needles used to string beads; sometimes the beading thread is just made stiff with glue and used as a beading needle.

See: Needles

 Selection of beading needles. CW

Selection of beading needles. CW


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.


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. 

See Also: Peyote Stitch


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.


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

   Beeswax used for conditioning cords, especially for seed bead work. CW


Beeswax used for conditioning cords, especially for seed bead work. CW


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.  

See Also: Base Metal, White Meta


Bell-Shaped Beads

Tiny cast iron bell-shaped beads from Orissa state, India, are an example of this type of bead.

 Small cast iron bell-shaped beads from India, Orissa. Multiple strands strung together to give striking appearance. RKL

Small cast iron bell-shaped beads from India, Orissa. Multiple strands strung together to give striking appearance. RKL


Benares

See: Varanasi, India


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.

See Also: Chasing Hammer


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.


Bicone Beads

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

 Three ancient Afghan bicone faience beads and two ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty glassy faience bicone beads. RKL

Three ancient Afghan bicone faience beads and two ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty glassy faience bicone beads. RKL


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.  

See Also: Cable Wire Perforation

 Precolumbian Tairona quartz bead with biconical perforation. RKL

Precolumbian Tairona quartz bead with biconical perforation. RKL


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. Pendants are also made by cold-working bottle glass by re-grinding and perforating.

 Wound Bida beads from Nigeria. RKL

Wound Bida beads from Nigeria. RKL

Bida Bottle-Glass Pendants

 Cold-worked pendants made by re-grounding and perforating pieces of broken bottles.

Cold-worked pendants made by re-grounding and perforating pieces of broken bottles.


Big Eye Needle

See: Needles    

 Big-eye needle in package. CW

Big-eye needle in package. CW


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

 Replica bird beads from Indonesia. CW

Replica bird beads from Indonesia. CW

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

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


Birth Stone 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.


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.


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.

 Black onyx beads. CW

Black onyx beads. CW


Black Stone

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

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. 

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

 Block fetish beads. RKL

Block fetish beads. RKL


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.

 Tapered barrel beads of bloodstone. CW

Tapered barrel beads of bloodstone. CW


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. 

See Also: Chinese Glass Beads Inside Painted Beads    

 Antique Venetian blown glass beads from the African trade. RKL

Antique Venetian blown glass beads from the African trade. RKL

 Contemporary Venetian blown glass beads. RKL

Contemporary Venetian blown glass beads. RKL

 Chinese blown inside painted beads; note the much thicker glass and the drilled perforations. RKL

Chinese blown inside painted beads; note the much thicker glass and the drilled perforations. RKL


Blow Pipe

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.


Blue Gold Stone

See: Goldstone


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. 

See Also: Agate Banded Agate Chalcedony   

 Blue lace agate beads. CW

Blue lace agate beads. CW


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.


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.


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.  

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

 Bodom bead with hotworked cruciform decoration. RKL

Bodom bead with hotworked cruciform decoration. RKL

 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; right-hand bead is contemporary. Center bead vintage, with cruciform decoration. RKL

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; right-hand bead is contemporary. Center bead vintage, with cruciform decoration. RKL


Bohemian 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.  

See Also: Pressed Glass Beads   


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.  

See Also: Pressed Glass Beads   

 Assorted shapes and colors of vintage Bohemian pressed glass beads. RKL

Assorted shapes and colors of vintage Bohemian pressed glass beads. RKL


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. 

See Also: Batik Bone Beads   

 Assorted African and Asian bone beads. CW

Assorted African and Asian bone beads. CW

 Raw Kenyan bone beads before they have been batiked. CW

Raw Kenyan bone beads before they have been batiked. CW

 African fish vertebrae beads. RKL

African fish vertebrae beads. RKL


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. 

See Also: Boylan, Tom; Schneider, Don

 Hollow borosilicate glass beads that have been sandblasted, by Harold Cooney Williams. RKL

Hollow borosilicate glass beads that have been sandblasted, by Harold Cooney Williams. RKL


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.

See Also: Agate Orbicular Agate   

 Botswana agate beads. CW

Botswana agate beads. CW


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.


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. 

 Filigree style box clasps. CW

Filigree style box clasps. CW


Box Wood

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

See Also: Ojime Netsuke   

 Contemporary boxwood ojime. CW

Contemporary boxwood ojime. CW


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. 

 Classic Tom Boylan beads from the 1990s. RKL

Classic Tom Boylan beads from the 1990s. RKL

 Classic red eye bead and two others by Tom Boylan. RKL

Classic red eye bead and two others by Tom Boylan. RKL


Branch Coral

See: Coral    

 Natural red coral branches. CW

Natural red coral branches. CW


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.

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

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

 Chinese brass buttons that have been converted into beads. CW

Chinese brass buttons that have been converted into beads. CW

 Very large brass bead from India. RKL

Very large brass bead from India. RKL


Brick Stich

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


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.  

 Tabiz style briolette. CW

Tabiz style briolette. CW

 Cubic Zirconia briolettes. CW

Cubic Zirconia briolettes. CW

 Drop style briolette in cut glass crystal. CW

Drop style briolette in cut glass crystal. CW


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.


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.  


 Czech glass size 5 bugle beads. CW

Czech glass size 5 bugle beads. CW


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. 

DBULLION.jpg

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.


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.  

See Also: Tagua Nut


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.

See Also: African Amber Amber   

 Burmese amber showing the characteristic shapes and color; longest beads about 8 cm long (3 inches). RKL

Burmese amber showing the characteristic shapes and color; longest beads about 8 cm long (3 inches). RKL


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. 

 Sterling silver drawn cable chain, characterized by elongated loops. Plain cable chain has round loops. CW

Sterling silver drawn cable chain, characterized by elongated loops. Plain cable chain has round loops. CW


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).  

 Soft Flex brand cable wire Extreme edition. CW

Soft Flex brand cable wire Extreme edition. CW

 Flex-rite brand cable wire. CW

Flex-rite brand cable wire. CW

 Miniature steel cable is an extremely strong yet flexible beading cord. CW

Miniature steel cable is an extremely strong yet flexible beading cord. CW


Calipers

Calipers are useful tools to measure the size of items, usually in metric or inches.

 Brass calipers, with upper measurements in inches, lower in millimeters. CW

Brass calipers, with upper measurements in inches, lower in millimeters. CW


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.   

See Also: Agate Carnelian Idar-Oberstein: Talhakimt   

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

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


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.  

See: Stamping


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.  

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


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 process, 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.

 Closeup of Indo-Pacific beads, most likely made in India, using the lada method, and not with a blowpipe. Courtesy of the now closed Bead Museum, Washington DC. RKL

Closeup of Indo-Pacific beads, most likely made in India, using the lada method, and not with a blowpipe. Courtesy of the now closed Bead Museum, Washington DC. RKL


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. 

See Also: Chinese Glass Beads


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.  


 Long Carnelian and silver bead from Nepal and capped faux Amber bead from Mali, West Africa. RKL

Long Carnelian and silver bead from Nepal and capped faux Amber bead from Mali, West Africa. RKL


Caps

See: Bead Caps


Capstan Beads 

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

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. This type dates from the Han Dynasty. RKL

Ancient Chinese glass erhtang, or ear spool, probably lapidary-worked; also known as a capstan bead or spool bead. This type dates from the Han Dynasty. RKL

 An assortment of Chinese glass erhtang—also called capstan, or ear spool—beads of the Han Dynasty, courtesy of Dirk Ross. These ear ornaments are also found in Japan and Korea. Earspools of the preceding Zhou Dynasty differ in size and shape. RKL

An assortment of Chinese glass erhtang—also called capstan, or ear spool—beads of the Han Dynasty, courtesy of Dirk Ross. These ear ornaments are also found in Japan and Korea. Earspools of the preceding Zhou Dynasty differ in size and shape. RKL


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. 

See Also: Karat


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. 

See Also: Afghan Ancient Hardstone Beads Cambay Etched Carnelian Beads   

 An assortment of long bicone carnelian beads, made in Cambay. Only the one with the large perforation is ancient, the others are replicas made so collectors will not buy authentic looted beads. RKL

An assortment of long bicone carnelian beads, made in Cambay. Only the one with the large perforation is ancient, the others are replicas made so collectors will not buy authentic looted beads. RKL

 Various shapes of new Indian carnelian beads. RKL

Various shapes of new Indian carnelian beads. RKL

 Vintage Indian carnelian beads carved in traditional shapes. RKL

Vintage Indian carnelian beads carved in traditional shapes. RKL


Carnelian Beads From Africa

 Assortment of carnelian beads from the African trade, most probably Indian made, some indigenous African production, and a few Venetian glass beads. Courtesy of Picard Collection. RKL

Assortment of carnelian beads from the African trade, most probably Indian made, some indigenous African production, and a few Venetian glass beads. Courtesy of Picard Collection. RKL

 Assorted shapes and sizes of carnelian beads from the African trade, all products of the Cambay stone industry. RKL

Assorted shapes and sizes of carnelian beads from the African trade, all products of the Cambay stone industry. RKL


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. 

See Also: White Heart Beads Cornaline d’Aleppo    

 Antique, cased Chinese glass bead. RKL

Antique, cased Chinese glass bead. RKL

 Contemporary cased glass beads. Clear glass casing adds depth and luster to drawn glass beads. RKL

Contemporary cased glass beads. Clear glass casing adds depth and luster to drawn glass beads. RKL

 Cased beads with acid-etched matte finish. RKL

Cased beads with acid-etched matte finish. RKL


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.

See Also: Base Metal   

 An assortment of American made cast and plated base metal beads. CW

An assortment of American made cast and plated base metal beads. CW


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. 

See Also: Chatoyance Tiger’s Eye


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.


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. 

See Also: Annular Beads Ring Beads Ringperlen   

 Celtic Ring Beads or Ringperlen, found in the UK and continent and dating to the Late La Tene period of the last two centuries BCE. When transiluminated, they are translucent green, almost clear; 1.6 to 2.1 cm diameters. RKL

Celtic Ring Beads or Ringperlen, found in the UK and continent and dating to the Late La Tene period of the last two centuries BCE. When transiluminated, they are translucent green, almost clear; 1.6 to 2.1 cm diameters. RKL


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. 

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

 Chinese (top), Greek (middle) and Peruvian ceramic beads. CW

Chinese (top), Greek (middle) and Peruvian ceramic beads. CW

 Contemporary clay and porcelain beads. RKL

Contemporary clay and porcelain beads. RKL


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. 

See Also: Seed Beads   

 Japanese size 8 Pink Ceylon glass Delica seed beads. CW

Japanese size 8 Pink Ceylon glass Delica seed beads. CW


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.  

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. CW

Silver cable chain. CW


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. 

See Also: Snake Beads Prosser Beads


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.


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. 

   Chain nose pliers used for bending wire, crimping, and more. CW


Chain nose pliers used for bending wire, crimping, and more. CW


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. 

 Ancient chalcedony beads. RKL

Ancient chalcedony beads. RKL

 Translucent ancient chalcedony tabular beads. RKL

Translucent ancient chalcedony tabular beads. RKL


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.  

See Also: Enamel Beads Cloisonné Beads


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.

 Copper chandelier finding with six loops for dangles. CW

Copper chandelier finding with six loops for dangles. CW


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.


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. 

See Also: Amulets


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.

See Also: Amulets Talismans


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, dispel bad dreams, and protect from psychic attack. It facilitates the release of unconscious fears and serves as a catalyst for healing.


 Charoite beads. CW

Charoite beads. CW


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. A sharp metal instruement is used to cut into the metal. When making hollow metal beads, the smith must complete all work that requires hammering before soldering the two halves of the bead together. 

See Also: Engraving Repoussé Stamping

 Closeup photography of a Taureg amulet, showing their very exacting chasing with handheld gravers. See Ornament 40/4, 2018. RKL

Closeup photography of a Taureg amulet, showing their very exacting chasing with handheld gravers. See Ornament 40/4, 2018. RKL


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.

See Also: Anvil Bench Block   

 Chasing hammer used for flattening and texturing wire, as well as riveting. CW

Chasing hammer used for flattening and texturing wire, as well as riveting. CW


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.

See Also: Cat’s Eye Tiger’s Eye


Chequer Beads 

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

See Also: Mosaic Beads

 Chequer bead, ca. 100 BCE-100 CE, 2.2 cm long, weathered. Courtesy of Lost Cities. RKL

Chequer bead, ca. 100 BCE-100 CE, 2.2 cm long, weathered. Courtesy of Lost Cities. RKL

 Chequer beads, not weathered, possibly same dating as previous image. Courtesy of B. Elias. RKL

Chequer beads, not weathered, possibly same dating as previous image. Courtesy of B. Elias. RKL


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.




Cherry Tomato Beads 

Trade name for red European made glass beads popular in East Africa.

 European glass beads collected in Kenya from the Masai; those with seed beads were used as earrings? RKL

European glass beads collected in Kenya from the Masai; those with seed beads were used as earrings? RKL


Chevron Beadmaking 

The process of grinding chevron canes to expose the chevron pattern.

 Stages in process of wet grinding of chevron glass canes into a chevron beads. RKL

Stages in process of wet grinding of chevron glass canes into a chevron beads. RKL


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. 

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

 Classic antique Venetian chevron bead from the African trade. RKL

Classic antique Venetian chevron bead from the African trade. RKL

 Indian chevron beads before they improved their technique. There are now also Chinese made chevron beads of good quality. RKL

Indian chevron beads before they improved their technique. There are now also Chinese made chevron beads of good quality. RKL

 A selection of contemporary Venetian chevrons. RKL

A selection of contemporary Venetian chevrons. RKL


Chevron Beads From The 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.

 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. RKL

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. RKL


Chevron Beads—Contemporary

A number of American glass bead artists now make chevrons, like Art Seymour and Heron Glass, as well as Venetian artists.

 Contemporary chevron bead by Mary Mullaney of Heron Glass. RKL

Contemporary chevron bead by Mary Mullaney of Heron Glass. RKL

 Collection of contemporary chevrons in various color combinations. RKL

Collection of contemporary chevrons in various color combinations. RKL


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. 

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). RKL

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

 Contemporary polymer chevron replica (left) and Prosser imitation chevron, very worn, from the African trade (2.2 cm long). RKL

Contemporary polymer chevron replica (left) and Prosser imitation chevron, very worn, from the African trade (2.2 cm long). RKL


Chinese Beads 

See Also: Cloisonn&eacute Beads Inside Painted Beads Warring States Beads—Ancient Chinese Warring States Beads—Glass Imitations


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.  

See Also: Cinnabar, Cloisonne, Porcelain   

 Contemporary Chinese porcelain and, on the last three rows, cinnabar beads. All are beads from the 1980s. RKL

Contemporary Chinese porcelain and, on the last three rows, cinnabar beads. All are beads from the 1980s. RKL


Chinese Eye Beads   

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


Chinese Faience Beads 

Faience beads were made in China about 1000 BCE, during the early Zhou Dynasty. Later, these evolved to glassy faience beads, examples of which can be seen under bicone beads.

 Ancient Chinese faience beads, in bicone and cylindrical shapes, from the early Zhou Dynasty. See Ornament 38/4, 2015. Courtesy of D. Ross. RKL

Ancient Chinese faience beads, in bicone and cylindrical shapes, from the early Zhou Dynasty. See Ornament 38/4, 2015. Courtesy of D. Ross. RKL


Chinese Glass Beads

Glass came to China about 500 BCE. Coiled and monochorme Chinese glass beads were widely traded from about 1200 CE to just before WW II. The beads shown here are from the Qing Dynasty and Republic period. Ornament 36/4, 2013 and 37/3, 2014 have good articles on vintage Chinese glass.

 Contemporary Chinese glass beads, which are completely different from vintage Chinese glass. CW

Contemporary Chinese glass beads, which are completely different from vintage Chinese glass. CW

 Large blue Chinese “Peking Glass” bead, of the type that were traded to Alaska and the Northwest US. RKL

Large blue Chinese “Peking Glass” bead, of the type that were traded to Alaska and the Northwest US. RKL

 Lapidary-worked Chinese glass, that were Court Necklace components, often of high quality. RKL

Lapidary-worked Chinese glass, that were Court Necklace components, often of high quality. RKL


Chinese Glass Ornaments

The Chinese glass industry not only produced beads, but also large number of other ornaments, like toggles and archer’s rings, which makes Chinese glass such a rich area for research and collecting.

 Large assortment of vintage Chinese glass beads, toggles, archers’ rings, Mandarin hat and court necklace components, a molded belt buckle imitating mutton fat jade and various molded glass ornaments. These objects employed a range of manufacturing processes, including disposable molds, kiln working and lapidary grinding. Note the cased beads and crackle glass bead. Courtesy of Leekan Designs, David K. Liu, the Liu family and Ornament collections. See Ornament 37/3, 2014. RKL

Large assortment of vintage Chinese glass beads, toggles, archers’ rings, Mandarin hat and court necklace components, a molded belt buckle imitating mutton fat jade and various molded glass ornaments. These objects employed a range of manufacturing processes, including disposable molds, kiln working and lapidary grinding. Note the cased beads and crackle glass bead. Courtesy of Leekan Designs, David K. Liu, the Liu family and Ornament collections. See Ornament 37/3, 2014. RKL

 Qing Dynasty glass counterweight from a Mandarin court necklace, that has been drilled and lapidary ground. RKL

Qing Dynasty glass counterweight from a Mandarin court necklace, that has been drilled and lapidary ground. RKL

 Part of the same vintage Qing Dynasty Mandaring Court Necklace, showing portion of the counterweight. RKL

Part of the same vintage Qing Dynasty Mandaring Court Necklace, showing portion of the counterweight. RKL


Chinese Stone Beads 

There is a range of Chinese stone beads, of which the most frequently seen are jade, jade imitations, agates, carnelian and turquoise.

 Chinese jade imitations and carnelian beads and ornaments in traditional shapes. One of the jade imitation is in the shape of Chinese money, at least three are toggles used by men, and the others are probably used for dangles, including two shaped as money. At least four are paneled carnelian beads. RKL

Chinese jade imitations and carnelian beads and ornaments in traditional shapes. One of the jade imitation is in the shape of Chinese money, at least three are toggles used by men, and the others are probably used for dangles, including two shaped as money. At least four are paneled carnelian beads. RKL


Choker

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


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. 

 African "Christmas beads." CW

African "Christmas beads." CW

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

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


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.


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.

 Australian chrysoprase beads. CW

Australian chrysoprase beads. CW


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. 

 Detailed close up of contemporary large Chinese cinnabar bead. CW

Detailed close up of contemporary large Chinese cinnabar bead. CW

 Various shapes of contemporary cinnabar beads. CW

Various shapes of contemporary cinnabar beads. CW

 Non-traditional blue colored cinnabar. CW

Non-traditional blue colored cinnabar. CW


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. 

 Citrine nuggets beads. CW

Citrine nuggets beads. CW


City Zen Cane 

The well-known team of Stephen Ford and David Forlano make fimo jewelry. See Also: Fimo   

 Some early mosaic Fimo beads made by City Zen Cane. RKL

Some early mosaic Fimo beads made by City Zen Cane. RKL


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.


Clamshell Disk Beads 

Thin, flat, round beads, or disk beads, are crafted from the shells of clams and other marine and freshwater bivalve and gastropod 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. 

 Clamshell heishi of various sizes from the African trade, some of which are made from the giant land snails of Africa. RKL

Clamshell heishi of various sizes from the African trade, some of which are made from the giant land snails of Africa. RKL


Claw Beads 

Most claw beads seen on the market are molded Bohemian glass, made for the African trade to represent feline claws, although none are meant to be accurate representations. They may be imitating either actural claws or indigenous-made claws in stone or other materials.

 Bohemian molded glass beads for the African trade imitating indigenous pendants of animal claws; one is a glass replica of an agate or carnelian claw. RKL

Bohemian molded glass beads for the African trade imitating indigenous pendants of animal claws; one is a glass replica of an agate or carnelian claw. RKL


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.

 Portion of bear claw necklace, Mesquaki culture, Iowa, c. 1965. Note the Venetian glass trade beads used as spacers. Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts. RKL

Portion of bear claw necklace, Mesquaki culture, Iowa, c. 1965. Note the Venetian glass trade beads used as spacers. Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts. RKL


Clear Quartz    

See: Rock Crystal


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.  

See Also: Cloisonn&eacute Beads—Antique Chinese Enamel Beads      

 Various contemporary cloisonné beads, probably of Asian origin. CW

Various contemporary cloisonné beads, probably of Asian origin. CW

 Contemporary Chinese cloisonné bead. CW

Contemporary Chinese cloisonné bead. CW


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. 

See Also: Cloisonn&eacute Beads Enamel Beads   

 Antique tabular Chinese cloisonné bead with image of phoenix. RKL

Antique tabular Chinese cloisonné bead with image of phoenix. RKL

 Antique Chinese open-work cloisonné bead. RKL

Antique Chinese open-work cloisonné bead. RKL

 An array of antique tabular and spherical Chinese cloisonné and enamel beads. Courtesy of Ornament Collection. RKL

An array of antique tabular and spherical Chinese cloisonné and enamel beads. Courtesy of Ornament Collection. RKL


Cloves

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

 Vintage necklace from Morocco of imitation glass coral, vintage Chinese glass beads and cloves, partially restrung. Courtesy of M.K. Liu. RKL

Vintage necklace from Morocco of imitation glass coral, vintage Chinese glass beads and cloves, partially restrung. Courtesy of M.K. Liu. RKL


Cobalt

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

 Cobalt blue Russian Blue beads, which are facetted drawn beads. These were important trade beads in Northwest US. RKL

Cobalt blue Russian Blue beads, which are facetted drawn beads. These were important trade beads in Northwest US. RKL

 Cobalt blue pressed glass beads from the Czech Republic. RKL

Cobalt blue pressed glass beads from the Czech Republic. RKL


Coconut Shell Disk Beads 

The hard smooth shell of coconuts are used for disk beads in various parts of the world, now mostly in the Philippines.

 Dyed coconut shell heishi strands from the Philippines. RKL

Dyed coconut shell heishi strands from the Philippines. RKL

 Coconut shell disc or heishi beads from West Africa. CW

Coconut shell disc or heishi beads from West Africa. CW


Coil Beads 

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

 Vintage Chinese glass coil beads, exported to Burma, 1.4-4.4 cm long. Courtesy of Elaine Lewis. RKL

Vintage Chinese glass coil beads, exported to Burma, 1.4-4.4 cm long. Courtesy of Elaine Lewis. RKL


Coil Wire   

See: Spring Wire


Coiling Gizmo 

A tool for making coiled wire beads. 

 Coiling Gizmo, a tool for making coiled wire beads. CW

Coiling Gizmo, a tool for making coiled wire beads. CW


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%.


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.

 Two Indian or Nepalese collared silver beads. RKL

Two Indian or Nepalese collared silver beads. RKL


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.  

 Color wheel used for finding harmonious color combinations with beads. CW

Color wheel used for finding harmonious color combinations with beads. CW


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. 

 Color lined seed beads. CW

Color lined seed beads. CW


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.  

See Also: Feathering, Marvering   

 Contemporary Indonesian combed glass beads. RKL

Contemporary Indonesian combed glass beads. RKL


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 glaze over a faience core, and Middle Eastern beads that combined stone and glass.  

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

 An array of Zhou Dynasty composite beads, decorated with simple and stratified eyes, as well as rosettes; note white or reddish cores, and glaze decorations. These range from approximately 0.5 to 2.0 cm diameters. For additional information, see Ornament 38/4, 2015 and 40/5, 2018. RKL

An array of Zhou Dynasty composite beads, decorated with simple and stratified eyes, as well as rosettes; note white or reddish cores, and glaze decorations. These range from approximately 0.5 to 2.0 cm diameters. For additional information, see Ornament 38/4, 2015 and 40/5, 2018. RKL


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.

See Also: Bead Caps   

 Sterling silver cones. CW

Sterling silver cones. CW


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.


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. 

See Also: Prosser Beads African Shell Beads    

 Conus shell disks and hemisphere, and their Prosser and plastic imitations, from the African trade. See Ornament 24/4, 2001. RKL

Conus shell disks and hemisphere, and their Prosser and plastic imitations, from the African trade. See Ornament 24/4, 2001. RKL

 Conus shell whorl decorated by sawn lines and drilled holes; these are used as hair decorations in Mauritania and elsewhere in North Africa. See Ornament 32/1, 2008 and 40/3, 2018. RKL

Conus shell whorl decorated by sawn lines and drilled holes; these are used as hair decorations in Mauritania and elsewhere in North Africa. See Ornament 32/1, 2008 and 40/3, 2018. RKL


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. 

 Mauritanian copal bead with decoratively reinforced perforations and Tibetan copal inlaid with coral. RKL

Mauritanian copal bead with decoratively reinforced perforations and Tibetan copal inlaid with coral. RKL


Copies

See: Simulations and Imitations


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.   

See Also: Alloy Aluminum Base Metal Brass Bronze   

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

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

 Assorted contemporary copper beads. CW

Assorted contemporary copper beads. CW


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. 

 Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant. CW

Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant. CW


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.     

See Also: Coral Simulations   

 Various colors of natural branch coral. CW

Various colors of natural branch coral. CW

 Tiny coral beads (about 2mm) on antique Chinese Mandarin hat ornament. RKL

Tiny coral beads (about 2mm) on antique Chinese Mandarin hat ornament. RKL

 Large and very small (about 2mm) natural coral beads, the latter Chinese. Note how the tiny beads are strung together to form a larger bead. RKL

Large and very small (about 2mm) natural coral beads, the latter Chinese. Note how the tiny beads are strung together to form a larger bead. RKL


Coral Simulations 

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.  

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. RKL

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. RKL

 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. Courtesy of the late Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL

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. Courtesy of the late Dr. Boyd Walker. RKL


Cori

See: Aggrey Beads


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.  

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

 Large and small Cornaline d’ Aleppo glass beads; the center large bead has been damaged, showing as circular spall marks. These Venetian beads are from the African trade. Note yellow core of larger CdAs. Sizes range from 0.4 to 2.3 cm diameters. RKL

Large and small Cornaline d’ Aleppo glass beads; the center large bead has been damaged, showing as circular spall marks. These Venetian beads are from the African trade. Note yellow core of larger CdAs. Sizes range from 0.4 to 2.3 cm diameters. RKL


Cornelian

See: Carnelian


Cornerless Cube  

A popular shape in the ancient Middle East. Shown here is an example of a carnelian cornerless cube made in 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. 

 Roman period cornerless glass beads with varying degrees of iridescence, or weathering. It is likely these small drawn beads were made into cornerless cubes by facetting, and not marvering. These are 0.7 to 0.8 cm diameters. RKL

Roman period cornerless glass beads with varying degrees of iridescence, or weathering. It is likely these small drawn beads were made into cornerless cubes by facetting, and not marvering. These are 0.7 to 0.8 cm diameters. RKL

 Islamic period cornerless cube bead with mosaic decoration, 1.2 cm high. Courtesy of the late Rita Okrent. RKL

Islamic period cornerless cube bead with mosaic decoration, 1.2 cm high. Courtesy of the late Rita Okrent. RKL

 Carnelian cornerless cube made in Idar-Oberstein for the African trade. RKL

Carnelian cornerless cube made in Idar-Oberstein for the African trade. RKL


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.


Cowrie Shell


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.  

See Also: Agate  


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. 

 Crimping pliers are used to squeeze the beading wires tightly into the crimps so that the wire is held tightly. CW

Crimping pliers are used to squeeze the beading wires tightly into the crimps so that the wire is held tightly. CW


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. 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.  

See Also: Crimping pliers, Chain nose pliers   

 Crimps are small (2x2mm) tubular beads that are used to attach clasps to cable wire beading cords. CW

Crimps are small (2x2mm) tubular beads that are used to attach clasps to cable wire beading cords. CW


Cross of Agadez

Cross of Agadez and related crosses are made by the Tuareg peoples who live in Saharan and Sahelian Africa. While mainly of cast metal, they often utilize other materials, such as wood and plastic.

 Vintage cast silver crosses of Agadez and Iferwane, that have been tooled, primarily with chasing; they are 7.0 to 8.4 cm high. For additional information, see Ornament 40/3, 2018. Courtesy of J. Busch. RKL

Vintage cast silver crosses of Agadez and Iferwane, that have been tooled, primarily with chasing; they are 7.0 to 8.4 cm high. For additional information, see Ornament 40/3, 2018. Courtesy of J. Busch. RKL


Crumb Beads 

Taking a bead that is still hot and rolling it over 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.  

 Antique Chinese (left) and Japanese crumb beads, with the latter much better made. RKL

Antique Chinese (left) and Japanese crumb beads, with the latter much better made. RKL


Cubic Zirconia

A synthetic material with many jewelry applications.

 Cubic Zirconia briolette shaped pendants. CW

Cubic Zirconia briolette shaped pendants. CW


Cultural Jade   

See: Jade—Pre-Columbian Greenstone or Cultural Jade


Curb Chain 

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


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.  

 Wire cutters. CW

Wire cutters. CW