history of beads dates as far back as 40,000 years ago, and have been made by
every culture since then. Egyptians were making glass beads by 1365 B.C., while
several thousand-year old glass factories in Lebanon are still in production.
has been making and exporting glass beads for centuries has been revealed in
archaeology sites. Glass and Brass beads have been found in burial sites of many
cultures: Egyptian tombs, Roman catacombs, Saxon, African, and American Indian.
Prior to European contact, beads in North America were made from gold, jade,
bone, the blue-green stone turquoise, and hand polished shell beads.
Fremont, and other
Southwestern Pueblo people traded turquoise throughout the Southwest and into
Mexico. Marine shells from the Pacific coast were traded to the Southwest
Indians and from the Atlantic coast and the gulf of Mexico to the Mound Builders
of the Mississippi River valleys.
Venetian Trade Beads:
major source of glass beads that would be used in the fur trade was Venice,
Italy. Venetians held a near monopoly on the bead industry for nearly 600 years.
A guild of Venetian glass makers existed in 1224 A. D.. Around 1291, a large
portion of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano, an island north of
Venice; city fathers feared an accident with one of the glass furnaces could
destroy the city.
over two hundred years, beads were made in Murano by a method known as "winding."
With this method, beads were made individually by drawing a molten glob of glass
out of the furnace and winding it around an iron rod. Glass of another color
could then be added, or the bead could be decorated with a design. Coloring
agents were added to the molten glass: cobalt made blue; copper produced green;
tin made a milky white; and gold resulted in red. Wound beads from a master
glassmaker were so perfect that it was hard to find a seam where the different
molten glasses merged.
Another method was blown glass beads. Using this method, a glob of molten glass
was removed from the furnace and the desired shape obtained by blowing through a
glass tube—much the same way glass vases are made.
glass industry was able to keep up with demand using these two methods until the
mid- to late 1400’s. Once European countries started sending ships around the
world, ship captains and explorers carried beads made of glass, porcelain, and
metal to use as gifts, or for the fur trade. The slow method of winding beads
could not keep up with this new demand.
Venetians by around 1490 started to make beads from tubes of drawn glass;
Egyptians may have used this process centuries before. With this procedure, a
master glassmaker took a glob of molten glass from the furnace and formed a
cylinder. After working the cylinder into the desired shape, he attached a rod
to the cylinder. An assistant would take the rod and run down a long corridor
before the glass had a chance to cool. This drawn glass tube was about one
hundred and twenty meters long. The length of the tube and the amount of glass
used determined the size of the beads. Once the tubes cooled, they were cut into
meter long pieces. These pieces were cut into beads of various sizes. The cut
beads were placed in a large metal drum containing lime, carbonate, sand, carbon,
and water. While the metal drum turned, heat was applied to the outside causing
the rough-cut edges to be smoothed. After the beads were smooth, they were
cleaned and then placed in a sack of fermented bran and vigorously shaken to
polish them. The monochrome glass beads of today are not much different from
those made five hundred years ago.
the 1500’s, the demand for glass beads had grown to the point that Venetians
were sending drawn glass tubes to Bohemia. There the glass tubes were broken
into beads, polished, and sent back to Venice. The Bohemians (Czechoslovakia)
had been making glassware, vases, and cups since the twelfth century.
an abundance of willing workers, quartz for the silicon base of glass, and
potash from wood-burning furnaces, Bohemia sent men to work in the glass
factories of Murano. The knowledge these men brought back on how to make the
drawn glass tubes turned Bohemia into a major producer of glass beads. By the
mid-eighteen hundreds, Bohemia was producing more glass beads than the factories
The shipping costs of the objects from Germany
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usual eventual arrival of 4 to 6 working days.
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also with priority mail international . This will take 5-10 days.
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