Saturday, February 7, 2009

A brief history of Beads

It is thought that the earliest recorded use of beads was by the Egyptians. There were certainly lots of items from the Egyptian period, but bead work has also been found dating back as far as the Stone Age where beads made from shells and ivory were use as accessories and added to clothing.

Egyptians Times
The beads which are traditionally used in beadwork are called seed beads because they are small and resemble a seed. These types of beads were used by the Egyptians in their beadwork and were called Faience beads.

The faience bead was often made from quartz particles fused together. A glaze would then be applied over the quartz and they would then be woven or strung together either as jewelry or adornments on clothing.

During the excavation of King Tuts tomb beaded necklaces were found along with other beaded items which included a pair of slippers he wore as a child and a hassock. It is extremely rare for this sort of beadwork to survive as they were often strung on cords made from leather or cloth which often disintegrate as time goes by.

In some religious texts from India there is reference to beads having been woven into hair and horses tails from around the 9th Century BC. Also there is evidence that beads were being widely used throughout Asia in ancient times and some beaded items have been found in temples in Japan that date as far back as 800 AD.

Most early beads were produced using shells, ivory and stone and the early Egyptians valued the beads according to the kind of stone that was used, in fact it was thought that different stones had different properties. For example, Lapis Lazuli (a gorgeous blue stone) was thought to protect the wearers health and would often be fashioned into beads along with Carnelian, Feldspar, Amethyst, Turquoise and Jasper, and which are still used today.

In about 1480 glass was introduced to produce beads when the Venetians began drawing glass tubes and turning them into beads. The technology for pulling glass tubes make it easy to produce thousands of beads which were uniform in size, shape and colours.