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The History of Beading


    • Between the 1800s and 1900s, beading was trendy at times. The tiniest beads were used between 1830 and 1850. These colorful beads are antiques because they are not produced any longer. In the 1950sb beading was used in designer clothing and accessories. During the 1960s, "love beads" became popular. Many of the patterns and techniques used in beading are derived from the Native Americans.

    Native Americans

    • Native Americans used natural materials for beads, such as coral, turquoise, shells, wood, amber, ivory, copper and silver, animal horns, bones, teeth and claws, and deer hooves. Finely split sinew was used to string the beads, and then attach them to garments made from animal hides. Native Americans made jewelry, clothing, belts and moccasins. They did not use glass beads until they were brought by the colonists from Europe in the 1500s. Native American items that were made for religious purposes such as medicine pouches and pipe bags were made personally or given as a gift by relatives. They were not intended for buying or selling.


    • Other types of beads were made available by the Europeans, such as glass beads and cast metal beads (brass, silver, copper and zinc). As far back as the 16th century, these beads were used as trade items. Explorers carried them among other trade goods to be offered to tribes as "gift trinkets," according to Murano Glass Beads.

    Glass Beads

    • Glass beads, which have been made for more than 5,000 years, were made in Venice, Italy, after Marco Polo brought back beads from Asia. They were reproduced by local artisans. The seed bead industry during the 1920s and 1930s perpetuated the glass industry in Venice. Murano Glass Beads indicates that as many as 30 companies were making the beads during the 1930s, providing employment for hundreds of women.

    Seed Beads

    • Seed beads were quickly accepted by Native American women. They believed the beads to be a gift from the spirits, and Anishnabe women named them "Manido-min-esage," which means "little spirit seeds, gift of the Manido." They were used in applique embroidery as well as loom beading. It takes about one year and 20 pounds of seed beads to complete a set of men's dance regalia, which includes leggings, vest, breechclout apron, cuffs, medallions and strips that are attached to the bustle, head roach and dance-sticks, according to Beaded Lizard Web Design.

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