Stone Beads and Their Imitations Volume 39.1

Lapidary Skills & Imitations In Stone Beads

FOUR ANCIENT TABULAR/LENTICULAR HARD STONE BEADS FROM AFGHANISTAN AND TWO REPLICA AGATE BEADS; these carnelian and agate tabular beads are very similar to Mesopotamian third millennium beads, 2.8 - 3.5 centimeters long, 0.6 - 0.9 centimeters thick. Courtesy of Anahita Gallery and J. Lafortune, 1978. Two lowest beads are new replica tabular agate and leech beads from Iran and Cambay, 0.6 - 1.0 centimeters thick; Courtesy of W. Seifried, 2006 and Beadazzled/Kamol, 1999. Due to better lapidary equipment, especially drills, many replica beads are now thinner than the prototypes. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament; shot with studio strobes, using softboxes for both transillumination/reflected lighting or just reflective lighting when shooting on black Tufflock. 

Recently we relocated our office of the past twenty-six years into a much more manageable space. This entailed examining, sorting and discarding old files, as well as other material collected over forty-two years of publishing. While packing our study bead collections, I was struck again by the beauty of ancient hard stone beads, the lapidary skills of their makers, and how skilled contemporary stone beadmakers had become in producing imitations, replicas or their own designs. Such observations and insights are very similar to the pleasure of re-discovering books in your library that you have not read for years.

      I have always regarded tabular hard stone beads of the third millennium as among the most aesthetic uses of stone, as well as so-called leech beads, which can date as early as 2200 to about 300 B.C. (Liu 1999). If one is cognizant of bead history and technology, the roles of stone beads in ancient world trade and exchange, then the importance of simulations would be readily apparent...

 

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Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His recent book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty plus years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to wearable art, both in and out of the Ornament studio. In this issue Liu writes about the Ethnic Costume Museum in Beijing, which he visited with Carolyn and Patrick in 2013, on a return to China after sixty-seven years in the United States. While going through the recent move of the Ornament office, he restudied some ancient stone beads in its study bead collection, marveling at both the skill of ancient and contemporary stone beadmakers, especially those who did replicas or imitations.