Archive for the ‘Fun Beading Facts’ Category

Super Old Beads Discovered in South Africa

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

More old beads have been found at Border Cave in South Africa.

While these beads are not as old as the ones found in Blombos Cave, they have been dated to 44,000 years ago. The really cool part is that they have been associated with a group of people still living in the area – the San People of the Kalahari.

The San People used to be known as Bushmen of the Kalahari, and it is believed that the San culture can be dated anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The San may be the heirs of the original hunter-gatherer cultures of Africa.

Just think, the ancestors of the San were making ostrich egg and marine shell beads just as more recent San people did before the Europeans arrived with trade beads.

This new evidence may push the date of documented human culture back even further. Cool stuff!

San People Beads

Click on image to read LA Times Article by Thomas H. Maugh II

Source:  Research published in the online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 30, 2012. Social Sciences – Anthropology: Francesco d’Errico, Lucinda Backwell, Paola Villa, Ilaria Degano, Jeannette J. Lucejko, Marion K. Bamford, Thomas F. G. Higham, Maria Perla Colombini, and Peter B. Beaumont

by Beverly

Carnelian Agate Gemstone

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

carnelian-stone-beadsCarnelian is the red form of chalcedony. It can be found in a variety of shades – from light ochre to rich bright Chinese red to reddish brown. Often carnelian will be banded with several shades in a single stone. This is a hard stone but not brittle like many others. Carnelian can be carved with a little effort and takes a polish well, and it has been prized by both ancient and modern people for its beauty and durability. A longtime favorite for its natural beauty, some of the earliest carnelian beads found date back to at least 2500 BC.

The Romans used carnelian for signet stones, which is a stone with a design carved into it and set into a ring. The signet ring was worn by the paterfamilias as a badge of authority over all of the members of his family. Paterfamilias is a Latin word that means “head of the house” or “father of the house.” The paterfamilias was the oldest and wisest male of the family. That’s right, women were not equal partners in the Roman world back then. The neat thing about carnelian is that it doesn’t stick to wax, making it perfect as a signet ring for sealing and authenticating documents.

Metaphysically, carnelian is believed to have a grounding energy, enhance creativity and boost physical vitality.

Mohs scale hardness: 6 to 7

by Beverly

Types of Seed Beads

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Seed Bead TypesSeed beads are those tiny beads that were first made around 1550 in Venice, Italy. They were a less expensive replacement for seed pearls, which were a very popular ornament for high-fashion clothing worn by the very rich. The real pearls were remarkably rare and expensive.

A hundred years later, the French made slightly larger beads called rocailles, which were faster and easier to make than the original seed beads. These days the difference is not considered, and the terms seed and rocaille both refer to the same type of bead.

Some beads got modified by having a facet ground into one side. They reflect light and have a definite sparkle. These are called charlotte beads.

In 1575 the English made bugle beads. These are very different and are made from tubes of leaded glass. A silver lining makes them sparkle. Bugle beads are longer than they are wide and come in a variety of lengths. Be careful – sometimes they have sharp edges.

Cylinder beads have straight walls and large holes. The early ones were very large and were known as pony beads. The Native Americans often wove them into their ponies’ manes – hence the name.

Please keep in mind that all of these beads were made by hand and required lots of time and attention to detail. They were an expensive luxury. It was not until the early 1800s that seed beads could be made by machines. Mass production reduced the cost considerably.

In 1983, the Japanese Miyuki company introduced tiny cylinders called delicas. You can read about how Miyuki seed beads are made in the Harlequin Beads bead library. You can see additional variations like tila, hex, cube and triangle in Harlequin’s seed bead section.

by Beverly

World’s Smallest Beads

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Mangalsutra - the smallest beads in the worldThe smallest beads in the world are probably the Mangalsutra beads. Traditionally, these tiny glass seed beads are made by hand in small workshops in India. Strands of these beads are tied by the groom’s family and given to the bride to be worn throughout her married life. The beads are a symbol of love and fidelity.

You can find Mangalsutra beads at Harlequin Beads & Jewelry.

by Beverly

World’s Largest Beads

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The world’s largest beads are actually coins. On the Micronesian island of Yap, money is made of stone. The stone is carefully carved into a disc and pierced through the middle. These coins can be enormous; in fact, one of the largest is over 10 feet in diameter. These coin beads are not meant to be worn, of course, but they are traded, bought and sold – which gives them an intrinsic value just like any other beads.

by Beverly

World’s Oldest Beads

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

How old are the oldest beads?

In 2004, archaeologists found 41 tiny shells in Blombos Cave, South Africa. They were carefully pierced and showed wear marks consistent with having been suspended on a string or thread. These shell beads date to 75,000 years ago.

More recently in 2007, archaeologist Nick Barton suggested that the shell of a tiny mollusk, Nassaruis kraussianus, was made into beads as far back as 82,ooo years ago. These shell beads were found in a limestone cave in eastern Morocco. The shells were pierced, with wear marks on their holes revealing that the shells were once colored with red pigment, and that they’d been strung on a fibrous cord – all indicators that the beads were meant to be seen. A more recent finding in the same area may put the date at 110,000 years ago, but the reports have not yet been published. Stay tuned to this thread for the latest findings.

by Beverly