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The History of Beads – Part 1

Where did beads originate from?

Since early man beads have existed in various forms such as pieces of bone, shells, and stones. Therefore it is safe to say that beads originate from wherever man does. A bead can be considered as anything that can be attached to decorate something else. However the earliest evidence of manufactured beads, made from faience, dates them at around circa 3100 BC.

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Faience Bead example
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Cartouche shaped faience bead

Composed of silica, sodium and calcium, faience beads are considered a non-clay ceramic and pre-dates glass making. Evidence has been discovered of ‘core forming’ in Mesopotamia circa 2340-2180 BC. Core forming involves softened glass being wrapped around a mandrel, usually made of metal. Archaeologists found specimens of faience beads in the tombs of ancient Egyptian kings and queens, making this ancient art form over 5000 years old!

More modern glass bead manufacturing can be traced back to 1308 when the Venetian Bead Makers Guild was formed. The area at that time was known to have a growing industry of bead production. From then on, production moved to other parts of Europe, and most notably to Bohemia which is renowned for its glass and jewellery.

Seiichi Katsuoka is credited with being the founder of Japanese glass seed bead history in the mid-1930s. The Katsuoka family were from Fukuyama, Hiroshima and started the production of glass seed beads. Hiroshi Katsuoka invented the technique of Silverline plating. The exporting of glass beads to the USA followed and beading is now a worldwide pastime for hobbyists of all abilities.

Beads are made from other materials such as wood, clay, and even paper, but glass beads are the most prevalent. Czech and Japanese beads are of the highest quality, which is why The Bead Fairy only stocks these. Cheaper beads from China and India do not have the same consistency in size and shape.

I will write further blog posts relating to the history of different types of beads so check back now and again to see what I’ve discovered

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