When you hear the word “beads,” do you instantly think about precious stones in fine jewelry? Or do you consider Rosary beads or some of the many other non-jewelry uses for beads — beaded gowns, headbands, belts, shoes or hair decor? Perhaps you think of a country music star’s outfit which is a studded head-to-toe piece of fashion jewelry. You might even remember the images of vintage jewelry being worn my ‘socialites’ of yesterday.
If you’re a product of the 50’s, your mind might wander to pop beads, those plastic pull apart, pop together baubles that have actually risen in value from mere cents to $20, $30 or more. If you’re a product of the 60’s, you might be fond of “love beads,” which matched the long-haired, unkempt appearance of hip youth. Or, your mind mind might roam to the long strands of beads that hung decoratively in doorways in cool pads in Haight Ashbury with sounds of The Mamas and the Papas blasting in the background.
From Ancient Trade to Modern Times
In Europe, Venetian glass and German metal beads served as currency in trade as early as the 16th century. Beads also played a main role in Native American precious jewelry and trade.
Bohemia was the center of the European bead trade from as far back as the Middle Ages. Through the twists and turns of history, bead making transferred to Bavaria and now, has again found its home in the Czech Republic due to the extremely popular Swarovski Austrian crystals.
In 1990, traditional Native American bead work converged with computer technology. Several college campuses introduced a pilot program in which bead work formed the structure for design programs for Native American students. The popularity and applicability of these courses continues today.
Now that we’ve walked down memory lane and taken a glance at classic and vintage beads what are the modern uses for jewelry beads? They’re everywhere you look from casual chokers and pendants to fine Swarovski Austrian crystal designs.
Start by picturing a single strand of beads from which a pendant hangs. From there, imagine pins,– yes, pins embellished with beads, beaded bracelets, barrettes, earrings, purses, shoes, and clothing. Even horses have gotten into the bead picture with intricate designs on their headbands. And, we must not forget man’s best friend with their beaded collars and leashes. Beads are truly everywhere!
Antique Beads Made With Techniques Lost In Time
With all the modern beads with their infinite assortment of colors and styles there is still something special about vintage beads. The labor intensive designs that simply cannot be recreated in our labor and cost conscious world. The addition of these ‘old’ beads to a modern creation turns an average jewelry piece into a true piece of art. From Venetian glass to Cloisonne the attention to detail is evident. Look for these distinctive creations for your next handmade jewelry project, they are calling your name.