BEAD DICTIONARY: THE LETTER B

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. 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 images that were taken expressly for the Bead Dictionary. 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 link. To navigate, select from the word index below to jump to the item you want in the Dictionary, but give the page a little time to load first. To get back to the top and select another letter use the arrow button. We are continuously adding to the Dictionary, so check back often. 

To search for keywords in Dictionary headings, use your browser's search function; for example in Internet Explorer use Control+F; if you are using a Mac, type Command+F, then type in your keyword. We hope you enjoy this (not-so-tiny) treasure, and learn more about the vast world of Beads.


INDEX

 

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

Three silver pinch bails with granulated decoration. CW

Three silver pinch bails with granulated decoration. CW

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.  


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.


Ban Chiang 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

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

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   

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 late 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 late 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

Carnelian barrel-shaped beads. CW

Carnelian barrel-shaped beads. CW

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.


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

African and Indian batik bone beads. RKL

African and Indian batik bone beads. RKL

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   

Large East African batik bone bead. RKL

Large East African batik bone bead. RKL


Bauxite 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

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   


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 board for designing and measuring beading patterns before stringing. CW

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

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 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

Wooden beading loom. CW

Wooden beading loom. CW

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.  


Bead Reamer

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

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. 



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

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

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 Tip

Bead tips used for securing cord to clasps. CW

Bead tips used for securing cord to clasps. CW

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 Tip Cement

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

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

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 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

Spool of Beadalon brand cable wire for bead stringing. CW

Spool of Beadalon brand cable wire for bead stringing. CW

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    


Beaded Beads

Beaded bead of seed beads over a wooden core. RKL

Beaded bead of seed beads over a wooden core. RKL

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. 


Beading Needle

Selection of beading needles. CW

Selection of beading needles. CW

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


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

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


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

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


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. RKL

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


Big Eye Needle

Big-eye needle in package. CW

Big-eye needle in package. CW

See: Needles    


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 beads. CW

Black onyx beads. CW

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 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

Tapered barrel beads of bloodstone. CW

Tapered barrel beads of bloodstone. CW

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.


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

Blue lace agate beads. CW

Blue lace agate beads. CW

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 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 and is stronger. 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 beads. CW

Botswana agate beads. CW

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   


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

Filigree style box clasps. CW

Filigree style box clasps. CW

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. 


Box Wood

Contemporary boxwood ojime. CW

Contemporary boxwood ojime. CW

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

See Also: Ojime Netsuke   


Boylan, Tom

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

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

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


Branch Coral

Natural red coral branches. CW

Natural red coral branches. CW

See: Coral    


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 Stitch

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.  

Drop style briolette in cut glass crystal. CW

Drop style briolette in cut glass crystal. CW

Tabiz style briolette. CW

Tabiz style briolette. CW

Cubic Zirconia briolettes. CW

Cubic Zirconia briolettes. 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

Czech glass size 5 bugle beads. CW

Czech glass size 5 bugle beads. CW

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.  



Bullion

DBULLION.jpg

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. 


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