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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst

 

Central and Southern African Tribal Art

 

 

   

 

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Trade Beads - Perles de Troc

 

African Currency - African Slave Beads

 

Handelsperlen

 

 

 

A bead is a small, decorative object that is pierced for threading or stringing. Beads range in size from under a millimeter to over a centimeter millimetre to over a centimetre to well over 10 cms. Glass, plastic and stone are the most common materials, but beads are also made from bone, horn, ivory, metal, shell, pearl, coral, gemstones, polymer clay, metal clay, resin, synthetic minerals, wood, ceramic, fibre, paper, and seeds. Beads have existed since the earliest pre-historic times. A pair of beads made from a sea snail shell are thought to be the earliest known examples of jewellery. (approximately 100,000 years) By the 'dawn of civilization' in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian societies, the use of beads was already 'quite old'. It was the ancient Egyptians who discovered the process of making glass itself. The bead chart below shows bead manufacture by region from 30000 BC. Click on the image to view a high resolution image, which will enable you to zoom in to text.

 

 

The History of Beads - Lois Sherr Dubin'

 

Neolithic Period

 

The Neolithic period, which means 'from new stone', refers to a period of human development that began about 10000 BC, or the end of the Stone Age. By this time humans had pioneered wild cereal cultivation and become dependant on farming. By 8500 - 8000 BC, farming communities had spread to North Africa. By 7000 BC dogs, sheep, goats, cows and pigs had been domesticated and the use of pottery practiced. Independent domestication events led to distinctive Neolithic cultures that arose completely independent of those in Europe and Southwest Asia.

 

 

Neolithic Collection -Wolf-Dieter Miersch

 

     

 

Beadwork from the Sahara includes pendants made from jasper, which may have been strung with agate, amazonite, carnelian, rock crystal, or ostrich shell.

 

     

 

Pendants of sand stone and beads of pink jasper are also known. Some ostrich shell beads are fossilized.

 

 

A selection of Neolithic beads which includes quartz.  

 

 

Neolithic Beads and Pendants -Wolf-Dieter Miersch Collection

 

Ancient Egypt was very much a part of Africa's Neolithic period. Their word for luck was "sha" and "sha sha" meant bead.  Egyptians used beads to cover almost every article of clothing and any uncovered part of the body. Quanties of beads were buried with the owner to ensure comfort in the afterlife. With reference to Neolithic Egypt, Lois Dubin wrote: No other civilization, however; manufactured such and enormous variety of beads in so many different materials. They were not only used for necklaces but were also attached to linen and papyrus backings to make belts, aprons, and sandals. Beadwork originated in Old Kingdom Egypt about 2200 BC.

 

 

Of this collar, Lois Dubin wrote - Pg 41  'The History of Beads': Collar of faience beads depicting cornflowers, dates, lotus seed-pods, and petals in a pattern derived from garlands of real flowers. Faience bead collars were frequently supplied as favors to guests at banquets. This necklace typifies the technical brilliance of the faience and glass jewellery of the Armana period (1379-1362 BC). It has been suggested that the uniquely gay and joyful quality of Amarna period art and jewelry reflects the sudden appearance of outside influences - possibly attributable to Minoan artists who may have fled to Egypt after the fall the Crete. Excavated from the tomb of Tutankhamen at Thebes.

 

African Bead Trade

 

Beads are one of the earliest forms of currency used in trade. From the 16th century, a large production of decorative beads was manufactured for the exchange of goods, services and slaves. Beads were made to ease the passage of European explorers, mainly to the African and American continents. They were produced throughout Europe, while Venetians dominated production. Thousands of tons of beads were sent to Africa as ballast in slave ships on their outbound voyage, which led to the name "Slave Bead". Beads were not only exchanged for human cargo, but also ivory, gold and other goods desired in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The success of bead currency in Africa can largely be attributed to the high intrinsic value Africans placed on decorative items. Social status was easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewellery worn, which created the high demand for trade beads throughout the region. Because of this, beads were produced according to local demand and design.

 

 

Trade Bead Sample Cards

 

Click these thumbs to view Bead Sample Cards

Randles Bros. & Hudson Ltd. - Johannesburg - Circa 1900

                                   Seed Beads - 1913                 Sick Collection - Royal Tropical Institute 1920's             Rocailles Beads Gablonz - 1913

                                   Sick Collection - 1920's              Vaccari Collection Millefiori and 4 - 6 Layer Chevrons c 1900              Pretoria Distributors

              British Museum 1865 Gold Trade   British Museum 1865 Slave Trade     British Museum 1865 Ivory Trade        British Museum 1865 Palm Oil Trade

Mixed un-named cards including chevrons. Private Collection

                                                                           Nissin Namer - Royal Ontario Museum                                 Baker Baker & Co. - King Williams Town

 

The bead cards and larger bead images found on this page represent trade beads in museum and private collections. However, the beads and information found in the charts that follow were obtained from Scott Semans extensive and informative price lists. His first hand experience with traders, adds quality information to the history of bead trade. You may contact Scott Semans for prices and availability of his items by clicking his name, which appears throughout this webpage. Mention of  'Dubin' refers to Lois Dubin's fantastic book, 'The History of Beads'. Peter Francis wrote quite a number of wonderful books which include 'Beads of the World' and 'The Glass Trade Beads of Europe'. John and Ruth Picard wrote and produced numerous volumes of exciting and visually important books and or documents, the first of which was entitled; 'Chevron Beads from the West African Trade'.

 

Chevrons - Chevron Trade Beads

 

 

Chevron Beads were traded throughout the world from the late 15th century. Christopher Columbus is said to have traded Chevrons when discovering the New World. They were introduced into Africa by Dutch merchants. The first specimens were created by glass bead makers in Venice and Murano Italy. Chevrons were originally called Rosetta beads, or star beads. The word Rosetta first appears in the inventory of the Barovier Glass works in Murano in 1496.

 

 

Massive Venetian Chevron  -  Circa 1480 1580 - Rediscovered in the Congo1983. Measures 7.7 cms x  5 cms. Weight: 288 gms.

 

Chevron beads were traditionally made up of red, blue and white layers. A smaller number of chevron beads were produced in green, black and yellow. (above) Chevrons were 'drawn beads', made from glass 'canes' created in specifically constructed star mould. Star moulds are known to have had between 5 and 18 points. Typically, four to seven layers of different coloured glass was added to the mould, conforming to the star mould. Metal plates were affixed to the hot glass which was then 'drawn' into a long rod called 'canes', by pulling from either in opposite directions. A bubble which had been blown into the centre of the original molten ball of glass formed the hole in the cane and beads perforation. The diameter of the cane or beads was determined by how thin the glass was drawn out. The cooled cane was cut into bead sizes, revealing a star pattern at either cut section. Each end was then ground or faceted to enhance and display the star chevron pattern. Star beads with flat ends are more correctly known as 'Rosetta star beads'.

 

The first known Chevrons typically had seven layers and six facets. Over time and through use, an inner layer would sometimes wear away. By the beginning of the 20th century, four and six layer chevron beads appeared on various bead sample cards. Small quantities of chevron beads continue to be made in Venice today.

 

 

Above, a selection of very large chevrons collected in Shaba Zaire (Conge DRC) during the most part of the 1990's. At the top is the largest 7 layered example we found. The centre necklace is made up entirely of seven layered Chevrons, while the outer two examples date to early 20th century trade. These beads were re-discovered individually. They would have entered the remote region through river sources, leading up from the mouth of the Congo River. Imagine the history they have seen!

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Chevron

7-layer

Venice

Classic 7-layer Chevron, a.k.a. "Rosetta" bead, possibly first made by Romans, but the earliest Venetian 7-layers are dated to 1480-1580 and heralded the Renaissance of European bead making. An important trade bead of the era.

Chevron

6-layer

Venice

Classic 6-layer Chevron, a.k.a. "Rosetta" bead, dating to late 19th & early 20th C.

Chevron

4-layer

Venice

Classic 4-layer "Rosetta" bead, as with the 6-layer, dated to late 19th & early 20th C.

Chevron

4-layer

Venice

Classic 4-layer "Rosetta" bead, as with the 6-layer, dated to late 1800s.

Black Chevron

Venice?

Four layer black. Dubin p.116 & p.346 #12b quotes Michael Heide who examined millions of African beads and found 6-10 examples of this type.

Yellow

Jacket Chevron

France?

Five layer Chevron with yellow stripes on black/ white/ red/ white core. Although attribution is tentative (Peter Francis, Beads of the World p.65) this would be the highest value trade bead produced in France. Dubin (p.116 #14a & p.346)

Green Chevron, Rounded

Venice

Also called Melon, watermelon, or Molonganame (Muly Yaghalama) beads in Africa Pinched-end, 4-layer Chevron, Broad green stripes over white / red/ white.

Green Chevron, Tabular

Venice

Also called Melon, watermelon, or Molonganame (Muly Yaghalama) beads in Africa Pinched-end, 4-layer Chevron, Dark green broad stripes over white / red / white. Tabular (Flat) Shape.

Awala Chevrons

Venice

Small striped beads, some multi-layered, others not. "Awala" or Awally (Ghana).

Striped Chevron

Venice

Also called Melon, watermelon, or Molonganame (Muly Yaghalama) beads in Africa Pinched-end, 4-layer Chevron

 

 

Powder Glass Beads - Sand Cast Beads

 

Powder glass beads are made from finely ground glass which is then fused. The earliest powder glass beads we know of were discovered during archaeological excavations at Mapungubwe in present day South Africa and date to 970 to 1000 AD.

 

Ghana is the centre of powder glass bead production in Africa, where bead making  was first documented by John Barbot in 1746 . The great majority of beads were produced by Ashanti and Krobo craftsmen and women. The beads themselves play an important role in society, which include rituals of birth, coming of age, marriage and death.

 

             

 

                            Bead Moulds                                               Clay Kiln                                 Mould with Crushed Glass

 

 

Bead Moulds - Wolf-Dieter Miersch Collection

 

The Krobo make powder glass beads in vertical clay moulds, each with a number of depressions designed to hold one bead. The mould is filled with pulverized glass in colour layers, so as to obtain sequences of patterns or shapes. A cassava leaf stem is often added, so that a perforation remains when fired. Other beads are pierced when they are still hot with a pointed iron tool. Firing takes place in clay kilns.

 

                                                                         

 

                                  Fused Glass                                   Bicone Beads                                    Writing Beads

 

(Photography Evelyn Simak)

 

There are three distinct styles of powder glass beads. 'Fused glass fragment' beads are made by fusing together large bottle glass or glass with bead fragments. They are somewhat translucent and receive their perforations and  final shape after firing. Other beads are made up of two halves, such as 'bicones or spheres'. The two halves are joined after a further short firing process. The third are 'writing beads' or 'Mue ne Angma'. These are conventional powder glass beads, with glass slurry decorations that are 'written' on their surfaces and fused in a second firing. Old bottles and other scrap glass are used to make all these beads. For special effect, sometimes cobalt medicine bottles, cold cream jars, plates and ashtrays are purchased, as they yield particularly bright colours or shiny surfaces.

 

               

 

                   Akoso Beads              Keta awuazi Beads                      Kiffa Beads                     Meteyi Beads           Ateyun Beads

 

(Photography Evelyn Simak)

 

Other variants of powder glass beads made by the Krobo are Akoso beads, which are predominantly yellow, but sometimes green. The Ashanti made Meteyi beads, in what appears to have been horizontal moulds. The Yoruba made Ateyun beads, formed by hand (without moulds) with water or saliva. These are always red and meant to imitate Mediterranean coral. Keta awuazi blue beads were very popular. They were made in Nigeria and Togo in cylindrical shapes from horizontal moulds. Kiffa beads from Mauritania are manufactured in the wet core technique and often fired in a sardine can. It is thought these were made to mimic the appearance of millefiori beads from Venice.

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Abu-Dhabi

Ghana

Tapered cylinders of dark glass with bright trailed stripes, imitating a c.1850s Venetian type which Dubin (#61a) calls "wound glass with polychrome decoration." Made by the Asanati peoples.  

Akoso

Ghana

Togo

Status beads of the Kings & nobility of the Ewe (= Krobo?). Ground trade beads are fused in clay moulds. These are well-worn examples of the "classic" period ca. 1870s-1910s.

Akoso Strand

Ghana

Togo

Status beads of the Kings & nobility of the Ewe (= Krobo?). Ground trade beads are fused in clay moulds. These are well-worn examples of the "classic" period ca. 1870s-1910s.

Coral

(Sand Cast)

Ghana

Krobo people. Glass beads in many shapes and sizes imitating coral, 1900s but not new.

 Black

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass, generally imitating European trade beads.

Stripes

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass, said to imitate Venetian "gas" beads.

Akoso types

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass, apparently imitating the old sand-casts of the Ewe.

Mixed

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass, said to imitate Venetian types.

 Solid Blue

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass.

Bulk

Ghana

Sand-cast or "pop bottle" beads made of powdered glass, generally imitating Venetian or old Akoso beads.

Huge Krobo

Ghana

Huge modern beads made from powdered glass. Crude & rough. (Korobo)

 

 

Iron - Copper - Brass - Aluminium - Silver Beads

 

Money or currency 'was' meant to store value as a medium of exchange. In Africa, everything from seashells to salt functioned as exchange, while the use of various metals was widespread. Pre-colonial African currency included arrowheads, axes, hoes, spear blades, beads, ingots, etc, which could be made from bronze, copper, iron, gold or silver. Coins were used in Northern and Eastern Africa from Egyptian times as the region was  part of the European and Asian trade.

 

               

 

African currency is notable for its variety and in many places; various forms of barter apply today. A slave could be bought in West Africa with a 'manilla currency'; which was a 'C' shaped ring of bronze, copper and occasionally gold. Manilla's were used as currency for centuries, while value depended on size and metallic quality. Large quantities were manufactured in Europe for trade. 

 

     

 

                    Katanga Crosses - Handa                                           Copper and Gold coinage from Katanga (Congo - DRC)

 

The Katanga Cross or 'handa', was a form of ancient money used in and around present day Congo (DRC). Handa were X shaped ingots made by pouring molten copper into either a stone or sand mould. They came in all sizes, represented stored value and were a display of wealth or prestige. Larger examples are known to have been traded as far as Yemen, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

 

                 

 

Zulu Dondo Beads - 19th Century

 

South Africa also had a tradition of bronze. Brass beads called 'Indondo' Izindondo were worn by warriors for protection in battle.

 

         

 

Zulu King Upanda with brass gauntlets, armlets or forearm bracers .

 

Brass armlets called 'Ingxotha' Izingxotha, were worn by the Zulu King, or his solders and favorites to which he had bestowed them.

 

     

 

Ancient iron Kisalen - Sanga beads dating to the end of the 12th century -  Shaba - Congo - DRC

 

 

Copper drawn and brass hammered beads collected in the Congo - DRC.

 

 

Brass beads made by the lost wax method were once a common store of wealth throughout West Africa.

 

 

This very large Nigerian Nupe bronze bead was once the centrepiece of a necklace.

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Iron: Small

Nigeria

Mostly bicone but some irregular, rough beads with large centre hole. Iron in any form was considered money in Africa.

Iron: Large

Nigeria

Crudely cast & variable beads with large central holes. Iron in any form was considered money in Africa.

Brass: Rough

Nigeria

Crudely cast & variable beads with large central holes. Any metal bead could have been used as money in Africa.

Munshi Beads

Sahara

SThe Tiv (a.k.a. Munshi) tribe of Shima, northern Nigeria used looped brass beads of average 12mm imitating a seed, valued at 1/4 silver Dirhem of the Mediterranean caliphates.

Moulay Beads

Nigeria

Derived from older Munshi beads of the Tiv, but used farther south.

Brass Bicone, Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Unlike the similar Kirdi (Cameroun) these show seams indicating a laborious wrapping process rather than casting.

Brass Bicone

Cameroun

Worn by single Kirdi women in strands drooping below the belly to hide the genital area, so also called cache sexe beads.

Aluminum Squares

Ethiopia

In the late 19th Cent. before a cheap extraction process was invented, aluminum was as or more valuable than silver. Africans generally ascribe healing properties to metals based on colour, and examples of currency objects and bracelets of forms known normally in copper occasionally turn up in well worn aluminum.

Prayer Beads

Ethiopia

Hollow, silver-plated. Age uncertain.

Asanti Charm

Ghana

Brass cosmological charm, basket-weave pattern.

Cosmology Beads

Ivory Coast

Brass beads with round animist cosmological symbol made by the Baule.

Hishi: Brass

Kenya?

Small loops of drawn brass wire ("hishi, heishi") crimped by hand.

Hishi: Copper

Kenya

Small loops of drawn copper wire ("hishi, heishi") crimped by hand.

Talari

Ethiopia

Small loops of drawn wire ("hishi, heishi") made from nickel-silver. The name comes from the Maria Theresa Taler (Maria Teresa Thaler)

 

 

Millefiori - Mellefiore - Mosaic Beads

 

 

Millefiori, derived from mille 'or thousand' and fiori 'or flowers' means thousand flowers. It is a detailed glasswork technique which produced distinctive decorative patterns on glassware. The term first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1839. Prior to 1839 the process was called 'mosaic'.

 

               

 

       Photograph - Evelyn Simak

 

Mosaic beads are traced to ancient Rome, Phoenician and Alexandrine. Archaeological sites in Ireland uncovered canes dating to the 8th century that were probably made in Venice. Prior to the 15th century, glassmakers were only producing beads from Rosetta canes. Like Chevrons, Rosetta beads were made by layering a number of layers of coloured glass in a mould and then pulling it from either end into a cane. The cane was then cut into short segments.

 

Large scale Millefiori bead production began in the late 1800's. Beads were made by hand, one by one, built on a centre glass core with solid colour. Thin slices of colourful Rosetta cane were pressed into the surface of the wound glass while still hot. Millefiori or Mosaic beads, became one of the most commonly traded and popular bead.

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Millefiore

Venice

Yellow, brick red, Black; eye pattern.

Millefiore

Venice

Wavy, irregular multicolour bands; psychedelic!

Millefiore

Venice

Black with bright Yellow eye design.

Millefiore

Venice

Green & White barrel design bisected by multicolour banding.

Millefiore

Venice

Sunburst-in eye design, Black, White, brick Red, Yellow.

Millefiore

Venice

Black with Red & Yellow eyes.

Millefiore

Venice

Brick Red, White, Blue, Yellow.

Millefiore

Venice

Brick Red, White, Blue, Yellow.

Millefiore

Venice

Dark Red, White, bit of Blue.

Millefiore

Venice

Blue, Black, Brick Red, White.

Millefiore

Venice

Black, White eyes with red or yellow centres.

Millefiore

(Square)

Venice

Black with Yellow eyes with Brick Red & White borders.

Millifore

(Elbow)

Venice

Most valuable of Millefiori shapes, long pieces with a bend.

Millifore

Venice

Wildly popular Mosaic or "many flower" design comes in endless colours, patterns, shapes, and sizes and was produced by a variety of techniques in Venice, late 1800's-1920s & later.

 

 

Copal Amber Beads

 

Amber is fossil tree resin. Good quality amber is used for the manufacture of ornamental objects and jewellery, as it is appreciated for its colour. Although not mineralized, it is sometimes considered a gemstone. The oldest amber originates from the Upper Carboniferous period (345 million years ago), but most of the world's amber dates to 30 to 90 million years ago.  Amber can sometimes contain insects and small vertebrates, as it originally was resin. Resin is a shapeless organic substance that a plant secretes through cells. Resin is not sap. Sap is a fluid which circulates within a plants vascular system. The oldest known amber containing insects comes from the Lower Cretaceous period (146 million years ago).

 

           

 

                           Amber Stone                               Amber Room - St. Petersburg                          Amber Stones

 

Amber occurs in a number of colours which includes the yellow orange associated with the colour 'amber'.  It can range between a whitish tone, a pale lemon yellow, brown, red, green and nearly black. The rarest of all colours is blue and highly sought after.
  

       

 

                                  Copal Amber                                               A World of Necklaces - Ghysels Collection

 

Fossilized amber should be distinguished from copal amber, which is semi fossilized resin amber. Molecular polymerization caused by pressure and heat transforms the resin first into copal and then over time through the evaporation into amber.

 

African trade beads were for the most part made from Copal Amber.

 

Copal Amber

Ethiopia

Copal is an immature form of amber, and was often imitated in plastic by European traders.

Natural Amber

Gambia

Natural tree amber from Gambia, roughly shaped into beads and holed with a hot poker. Old amber (and imitation) beads were important trade items in Africa.

 

Dutch Beads - Dutch Dogon Beads

 

Holland manufactured some of the earliest beads for the African trade. The large solid colour beads below, often called 'Dutch Dogon' were traded by Dutch merchants and adventurers along the African coast. It is likely that most of these examples were made in Amsterdam from 1580.

 

 

Lois Dubin wrote: Archaeological excavations in the old parts of Amsterdam suggest the existence of a glass bead making industry by 1580. More than fifty thousand whole and fragmentary drawn glass beads were recently found in late sixteenth century landfills at Waterlooplein, the old Jewish quarter. (1987)  - - -  Dutch bead making appears to have had a relatively short, but active life. By 1550, Venetian glassmakers from Murano were working in Holland. From at least 1600 to 1750, beads manufactured in Holland were carried by Dutch, English, and French explorers and merchants to North America, South and West Africa, and Indonesia.

 

 

Dutch beads traded their way deep into the interior of Africa and retained value centuries after manufacture. The beads in the above two images were collected during the 1990's in Shaba, Zaire (Congo DRC). They represent usual and unusual colour shade variants which surfaced from quite a few thousand necklaces. Dark blue and white were the most common colours, whereas white opalescent and turquoise tones were not. Note the pair of uncut doubles.

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Dutch Dogon

Holland

Crude, wound type, always found well worn. One of the oldest trade beads, made in Amsterdam 1580s & later, but probably also Bohemia, Venice, etc. Dubin #101-102.

Dutch Dogon

Holland

One of the oldest trade beads, made in Amsterdam 1580s & later, but probably also Bohemia, Venice, etc. Dubin #101-102.

Bayon

Holland

Purple short barrels. Called Bayon in Congo.

Gajakuro / Aramissi

Holland

Small, roughly ellipsoid blue, green, and black beads called Gajakuro in Ghana, Aramissi in Nigeria. Wound manufacture, likely pre-1900.

Dogs Tooth

Holland

Subtly scalloped round black bead with white belt. Traded to the Igbo of Nigeria. C

Rattlesnake & King

Holland

Irregular white bands on black, "wound glass with trailed decoration" per Dubin #111 Traded into Ghana & found at North American Iroquois sites dating before 1763.

 

 

Kuba Belt Bead - Pendant

 

Click thumbs to view larger images.

Published page 66 - Beadwork - A World Guide

 

This bead pendant or amulet was discovered in the Congo during the 1990's and made by the Kuba peoples from Zaire – Congo – DRC. The blue and white beads are Venetian and date to pre1920. The shell itself is a Cypraea Pantherina of the Cypraeidae family, endemic to the Red sea and the Gulf of Aden (Identified Lightfoot - 1758). The completed object is a trade bead as well as it is currency. The shell traveled a great distance through 19th century caravan trade.

 

 

 Beadwork - A World Guide - Pg 67

 

Click thumbs to view larger images.

.

 

Beadwork - A World Guide - Pg 66

 

Like the shell amulet above, this massive crocodile tooth became a bead pendant.

 

 

Mixed Trade Beads - Slave Beads - Seed Beads

 

Contact Scott Semans to purchase any of the following slave / trade beads. 

 

Watermelon

Venice

Also called Melon or Molonganame (Muly Yaghalama) beads in Africa. Pinched-end, solid colours with stripes (not Chevrons).

Dutch Delft

Venice

Ellipsoid with fluid flower patterns in blue or red on bone white base. Venetian imitations of a Dutch bead. Called Dabwa in Nigeria.

"Fancy" Beads

Venice

Black barrels with raised, trailed yellow banding.

French Cross, Yellow

Venice

Called Bodoum in Africa, yellow with cross of red, white & black, similar to a King bead.

French Cross, Yellow Variants

Venice

Contemporaries of the French cross, but variations in shape or pattern. Scarcer than the classic cross variety.

French Cross, White

Venice

Called Bodoum in Africa, white with cross of red, white & black This colour was a trade item in the American southwest. Similar Dubin 70a

French Cross, White Variants

Venice

Smaller, flatter beads with diagonal stripes.

French Stripe

Venice

French cross but a brighter yellow and lengthwise stripes.

Great Lakes

Venice?

Swirled dark blue stripes on white, beads. Associated with the American Indian trade in the midwest. This type also produced by the Dutch.

American Flag / Manhattan

Venice

Red & blue stripes on white layer, over red core. Dubin  "Wound compound glass with polychrome stripes." Late 1700s, traded in Great Lakes region and falsely associated with purchase of Manhattan.

Feather

Venice

Caramel coloured wound bead with dragged decoration. Dubin 71.

Ahinija

Bohemia

Oddly-shaped Tabular, moulded beads which fall naturally into a crisscross stacked pattern when strung. Yellow with varicoloured stripes. Traded into Ghana and associated with the gold trade.

Black striped

Europe

Black cane-cut beads with alternating red & white lengthwise stripes.

"Roman" Beads

Alexandria?

Rough, matte beads excavated in southern Sahara regions from ancient trade. Some are clearly wound, others may be drawn or possibly filed wound beads to eliminate gapping when strung.

Eye Bead: Black

Venice

Short, jet-black beads with white or multicolour "eyes."

Flower White hearts

Venice

Short barrels, floral pattern in white & blue on red, over white core; basically white hearts with a pattern.

Good Bead

Venice

Brick red barrels with white squares . a.k.a.Venetian tic-tac-toe, called "Good Bead" in Ghana. Dubin #73b "wound glass with polychrome decoration."

Good (Eye) Bead

Venice

Circular or "eye" designs on solid background, generically called "good bead" in Ghana.

King, classic yellow

Venice

Wound bicone bead from Venice, c. 1850s-1930s. Picard (Vol. V, pl.26, strands 7, 13) quotes a note on an actual sample card "traded for gold."

Black King

Venice

Classic bicone made 1850s-1930s, but scarcer black vs. usual yellow, most with eye-like pattern.

Baby Black King

Venice

Classic bicone in a smaller size  with multicoloured swirled stripes. Made 1850s-1930s, but scarcer black vs. usual yellow.

King, Stripe & Dot

Venice

Perhaps an early version of King beads, rounded egg-yellow with incused red dots and trailed green stripes.

Medicine Beads

Venice

Called Medicine Bead by North American Indians. A solid white, slightly ovoid wound bead with incused dark blue dots and trailed pink lines.

Nueva Cadiz

Spain? Venice?

Long light-blue tubular bead without layers. The layered versions are known from 16th Century sites in South America, but this variety (Smith & Good, 1982, #34) is associated with 17th Century North American sites.

Proto-bead

Venice

Early trade bead, possible ancestor of both King beads and Cournalene d'Aleppo.

Russian Blue (elongated)

Bohemia

Classic Cobalt Blue, faceted elongated beads, associated with North American trade.

Russian Blue (squared)

Bohemia

Faceted Classic Cobalt Blue, associated with North American trade.

Skunk: Black

Venice

a.k.a. Crows eye, Eye bead. White or coloured "eye" spots on round black beads.

Skunk: Clear

Venice

a.k.a. Crows eye, Eye bead. White or coloured "eye" spots on round semi-clear beads.

Skunk: Red

Venice

a.k.a. Crows eye, Eye bead. White Heart. White "eye" spots on round red beads over white core. A high-value bead, traded into Ethiopia. Beads 10-11m. Dubin #95 "wound compound glass with polychrome dots."

"Togo Stone" Beads

Europe

Single beads Glass imitations of the valued "Togo stone" money.

White Heart (Cournalene)

Venice

Red over white core. Among the oldest of White Heart types.

White Heart (Cournalene)

Venice

Cournalene d'Aleppo, Hudsons Bay Trade Beads: Among the oldest of White Heart types.    

White Heart (Cournalene)

Venice

Cournalene d'Aleppo, Hudsons Bay Trade Beads: Among the oldest of White Heart types.

Flower White hearts

Venice

Round White-hearts with blue-on-white leaf pattern repeated 4x.

Yemen Agate

Idar- Oberstein?

Dark-and-white banded stone beads.

 

Agate Glass

Bohemia?

Sextagonal, Flat, Red-Brown and ruby Red glass.

Agate, White

Venice

Large glass beads traded to the Yoruba. Milky white, semi-translucent with veins.

Bauxite Rounds?

Bohemia?

Dark Red disks, possibly imitating the African bauxite bead colour. Used by Yoruba of Nigeria. 

Carnelian Glass

 

Round Glass beads imitating striped carnelian stone, mixed colours, sizes.

Carnelian Glass

Germany

Visually convincing glass imitations of carnelian agate, from Germany, traded into Mali and Senegal.

Czech Padre, Large

Bohemia

Unusual Orange colour.

Czech "Crystal"

Bohemia

Faceted glass bead in a shape typical of cut crystal.

Czech "Diamond"

Bohemia

Faceted glass bead in a shape typical of cut diamond.

Donut, Blue

Germany

Ca. 1860-97. One of the few trade beads attributable to Germany. Crude wound bead with unusually wide holes.

Donut: Clear

Germany

Ca. 1860-97. One of the few trade beads attributable to Germany. Crude wound bead with unusually wide holes.

Donut: Modern

 

Faithful reproductions of the 19th Century German beads with usual crude appearance.

Donut: Round

Germany

Ca. 1860-97. One of the few trade beads attributable to Germany. Crude round beads of clear glass.

Green Hearts

Venice

Older green-hearts, probably 1700's, irregular dark red tubes over greenish cores.

Hebron: Yellow

Palestine

Sudan

Peter Francis in Beads of the World p.78 notes that, during the disruption of the Crusades, " . . .bead makers apparently emigrated from Tyre on the Mediterranean coast to Hebron near Jerusalem sometime after the twelfth century. They made beads there, using the salts of the Dead Sea as their alkali. Their glass was opaque yellow and green, sometimes blue and black. The beads were furnace-wound and were popular in Egypt and in sub-Saharan Africa." Traded to Sudan, where they are found today.

Hebron (Kano): Blue

Palestine
Sudan
 

Medieval Palestine, traded to the Sudan.

Hebron (Kano): Green

Palestine
Sudan
 

Medieval Palestine, traded to the Sudan.

Baby Hebron

Palestine
Sudan
 

Small versions of this early bead from Palestine.

European Hebron

Sudan

European-made versions of the ancient Hebron beads made in the middle east and popular in the Sudan.

King Bead Disks

Venice

Same porous, chalky yellow glass as classic King bead, but plain disks 17m wide. Traded into Ghana.

King type, Mixed

Venice

Tubular beads in egg-yolk yellow as King beads.

Senegal Blue

Venice

Excavated beads from Senegal, product of Venice late 1700's-1800s? Range 2-8mm width. One strand has some green, another soe "Russian blue" mixed in. Strands available: a, b

Sherpa Coral

Tibet

India

Imitating Coral, these glass beads were made in India and traded into Tibet.

Talhakimt Pendants

Europe

Large, flat European-made glass beads copying metal & stone pieces used by the Tuaregs of the northern Sahara. Called Zinder beads in Europe. See Der Primitivgeldsammler 1989/1 p.23 #IV1,3. Opitz p.38, 64.

Talhakimt, Agate

Europe

Pink stone European-made beads used by the Tuareg of the northern Sahara. Called Zinder beads in Europe. See Der Primitivgeldsammler 1989/1 p.23 #IV1,3., Opitz p.38, 64. Specimens available: a, b, c, d

Tomato

Venice

Large, slightly translucent beads, irregularly rounded, in yellow.

Tomato, Yellow

Venice

Large, slightly translucent beads, irregularly rounded, in brilliant shades of red. Traded into Ethiopia.

Tubular faceted

Holland?

Long, translucent.

Vaseline, green

Bohemia

Translucent forest green in unique short faceted bicone shape. Made. ca. 1830-1900 according to P. Francis.

Vaseline, red

Bohemia

Translucent deep red in unique short faceted bicone shape. Made. ca. 1830-1900 according to P. Francis.

Early wound: Orange

Venice

Crude wound beads,in a matte tangerine colour. They resemble beads found in medieval Saharan sites such as Djenne.

Early drawn: Green

Venice

Crude drawn beads, in a semi-translucent green colour.  They resemble beads found in medieval Saharan sites such as Djenne.

Agate Glass

Venice?

Tubular faceted beads. The stone-like striations stop at the lengthwise seam.

Agate: squared

Idar

Oberstein?

Stone beads, roughly lozenge shaped.

Black Agate (glass)

Bohemia?

Ellipsoid & other shapes in jet black, sometimes with white bands. Traded into Nigeria.

Black ridged

Bohemia?

Short, jet-black beads with 6 prominent ridges.

Blue White-heart

Europe

Small cane-cut blue over white core.

Cassamance (Shipwreck)

Senegal

Milk white, rough and irregular tubular shaped beads from Venice. They washing up on the beaches of Senegal's Casamance region.

Colourado

Europe

a.k.a. Colodanto, Congoina. Large ellipsoids.

Colourado / Fulani

Europe

Bright red, a.k.a. Colourado, Congoina. Large ellipsoids used by the Fulani.

Cranberry

Bohemia

Dark red-brown when worn, they glow a deep red when held to the sun or a light.

Cranberry

Bohemia

Dark red-brown, or translucent red. Round or multifaceted squares.

Cranberry: disks

Bohemia

Medium red-brown disks.

Czech Cubes

Bohemia

Translucent red with white frosting. Moulded, early 1900s. One of types called Kancamba (Kancamba) in Ghana.

Czech Padre

Bohemia

Moulded beads imitating Chinese Padres.

Dice Beads, Pink

Bohemia

Beveled rectangles, Imitating dice.

Dice Beads, Colours

Bohemia

Beveled rectangles, Imitating dice. P

Dice Beads, Mixed

Bohemia

Bevelled rectangles, Imitating dice.

Dice, Unused

Bohemia

Shiny new beads, but from an old trading stock.

Dogbone (Drum)

Bohemia

a.k.a. Drum or Dondo (Ghana). Bright red.

Dogbone (Dumbell)

Bohemia

Bright red, about 4 x 9m. Called Coral Beads in Togo.

Elbow / Macaroni

Bohemia

Bright shades of red to orange. Traded into Senegal and Mali.

Flower-shape

Bohemia

Four knobs around central hole vaguely imitate flower shape.

Lemon Beads

Bohemia

Bright lemon-yellow beads.

Massai (Black)

Holland?

Glossy black square-cut tubular beads of the type called "Baya" in West Africa, where various colours are traded. Black beads are traded to the Massai of East Africa.

Modern White-heart

Czech

Modern version of this classic trade bead, still with a rough "wound" look, variety in shape and thickness, and the brilliant red produced by translucent glass over a white core.

Padre: Tourquoise, White

China

Chinese bead which travelled all over the world as part of the Spanish silver trade. Made . late 18th-early 19th C. by the primitive winding process.

Padre: Scarce colours

China

Less common colours: Green Red, Yellow, or translucent Blue.

Padre: Scarcest

China

Scarce colours: Black, mixed Black/Purple, or translucent Brown

Padre?: Pink

China?

Found in Kenya where pink beads are popular with the Massai.

Peking Glass: Old

China

The Chinese have been making crude, wound-type beads for trade for a long time.

Red Triangle

Bohemia

Translucent red. Traded into Mali.

Russian Blue (Africa)

Bohemia

Small 4m width. Traded into Africa & hence not as popular as darker type used in North America

Scallop

Bohemia?

Small Purple & White of complex shape.

Sotro

Venice

Rounded yellow beads with red and blue or black stripes, called Sotro (bullet) in Ghana

Vertebrae

Bohemia?

Squared brown dumbell shapes which fit together like snake vertebrae..

White Heart

Venice

Cane-cut, medium, red & yellow.

White Heart

Venice

Cane-cut, small.  Traded to Hill Tribes in Thailand / Burma.

White Heart

Venice

Translucent coloured glass over a white core, first made in Venice and traded all over the world in a variety of shapes and sizes.

White Heart Blue Orange

Venice?

Variant on the older red white heart were traded into Ethiopia. Blue over white core.

White Heart Tubes

Venice

Familiar translucent red over white core, but in thin 2.5mm tubes in variable lengths. Traded into Nigeria.

 

Agate Glass

Europe

Round-faceted, Carmel & White. Moulded.

Gumba / Fulani

Venice

Apparently Gumba is a generic Nigerian name for small purple beads. Also called Fulani beads.

Janie

Venice

Called Janie in Africa, probably a corruption of Djenne. Slightly translucent blue tubes.

Kancamba

Bohemia

Moulded disk beads in a variety of colours & sizes. Early 1900s. Dubin 125.

Kancamba

Bohemia

 Moulded disk beads in green. Early 1900s. Dubin 125.

Massai, Seed

Venice

Small pink beads favored by the Massai of Kenya.

Massai, wound

China?

Pinkish beads favored by the Massai of Kenya. Newly purchased group of larger, wound beads, rather than the usual cane-cut types.

Purple tubes

Europe

Light purple tube beads.

Seed

Europe, etc.

Commonest trade beads, made in Europe, China, India, etc.

Seed, Black

Europe

Black Strands

Seed, White

Europe-etc.

White strands.

Seed / Fulane

 

Tiny seed beads, one of several types called Fulane beads in Ghana.

Seed: Chinese

China

Cruder and larger than European types, they look like tiny Padre beads.

Snake Beads, Large

Bohemia

Late 1800s, cleverly made to imitate nesting snake vertebrae which are used throughout Africa for divination.

Sokingkode

Europe

Tbular translucent Red. Called Sokingkode in Ghana.

Translucent Disks

Europe

Small annular beads with pleasing luminous colours.

Bauxite

Nigeria

Rough earth-red beads from clay rich in aluminum ore, a distinctive African bead.

Ostrich Eggshell

East Africa

Turkana, Samburu, Ovambo, Koi - San tribes. Rough roundish disksof tough eggshell, centre-pierced. A well-known odd & curious item & one of few beads from eastern Africa. 

Coconut Disks

Nigeria

Used in divination.

Copper Tube Beads

Ethiopia

Thin sheet copper rolled into 7-9mm tubes and strung. Copper is the major currency metal in Africa.

Natural Coral

Mali

Vivid orange sticks and chunks of coral.

Dig Beads

Jenne Jeno

Excavated beads, mostly stone, tiny, mostly 2-3m. Said to be 1000 years old.

Dig Beads

Jenne Jeno

Excavated beads, mostly stone, larger beads, polished, in graduated strands.

Colourful Dig Beads

Mali

Senegal

Excavated glass in mixed colours, said to be 1000 yers old as the Djenne-Jeno type.

Excavated Terracotta

Djenné

From the medieval site of Djenné in Niger on the Tumbuctu trade route, excavated terracotta beads 500-800 years old.

Jenne-Jeno Carnelian

Sahara

Excavated at the ancient trade centre of Jenne-Jeno on the upper Niger river.

Jenne-Jeno Carnelian

Sahara

Excavated at the ancient trade centre of Jenne-Jeno on the upper Niger river.

Malachite

Congo

Beautiful veined green stone.

Mali Granite

Mali

Senegal

Perhaps1600s-1700s.

Niger Granite

Niger

Rough grey chunks. Age unknown, but at least 200-300 years old. Sample shown.

Quartz

Mali

Rock quartz.

Sandstone

Niger

Irregular tubes of hard, rough material.

Snake Bones

Africa

Actual snake Vertebrae, used in divination throughout Africa.

Soft Stone

Ghana

Crude, excavated beads made of a soft, soapy stone.

Spindle Whorls

Nigeria

Strung as beads, these are terracotta weights used to spin fabric strands into thread.

 Wedding Bead

Gambia

Large orange terracotta bead. Gambia

 

 

The History of Beads - Lois Dubin Maps

 

Click a thumb to enjoy Lois Dubin's informative maps.

                                             The Beginnings                      River Valley Civilizations                  The Phoenicians

                                           The Roman World                            Europe                            The World of Islam

                                          European Expansion         Africa - Pre-History to Present                Africa 1987

 

Thanks Lois - If you would like to kill us for posting the, please firs 'honour us' with an attack visit to explain. :-)

 

 

Lion Teeth collected in the Congo (DRC)

 

 

 

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