Beads have been around since man started adorning himself with ornaments. Bead jewelry dates back to pre-historic time. The earliest bead jewelry was made out of what was available in the immediate environment. This included coal, berries, seeds and other vegetal matter such as animal bone and shells. The materials used in early bead jewelry were comparatively thin and easy to pierce. Beads were shaped for bead jewelry by grinding, chipping, and polishing. The beads were then perforated with a sharp stone.
Throughout history, beads have been a major commodity for traders. Not only trading the beads and bead jewelry – but trading of the raw materials which produce the beads and bead jewelry. In fact, in antiquity the raw material was traded more often the beads themselves!
It is interesting to note that when Christopher Columbus came to the New World that he brought beads as a gift. While Columbus did not know who he would encounter on his voyage, he did know that beads were loved by most anyone and would be seen as a friendship gift.
Beads have always played an important role in American Indian life. Beads were used as decoration on clothing and as a form of barter. Bead jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces, and waistbands displaying brightly colored geometrical patterns has always held a sacred meaning to the American Indian.
Bead jewelry usually comes in strands. If you prefer to buy individual beads and make your own bead jewelry, you should closely inspect the size, shape, color, clarity and overall beauty of the bed. Today beads are available in a wide variety of materials. Shell, wood, ceramic, acrylic and even plastic beads can be used for bead jewelry making.
Joseph Paige © 2006