the scan doesn't do it justice. all the smaller beads are a deep, translucent blue, and the detail in the larger ones is spectacular.
Except for the Sterling Silver beads on this necklace,
all the beads are made in the tradition of old time trade beads. The cobalt
blue Pony Beads which make up the bulk of the necklace are almost black but
if you look at them in the light, you can see the deep blue. Pony beads got
their name by being packed to remote trading posts and rendezvous sites by
ponies during the pre-1840 fur trading period. These were made in France by
hand and are solid glass.
The slightly larger red beads with the white centers are known as White
Hearts, Cornaline d' Aleppo, or Hudson Bay Beads. They are newer than the
really old ones but they are still made in Italy by hand. They are made by
creating a white drawn glass tube and then dipping it in molten glass of
another color. Once the tube has cooled it is then cut into sections and
each section sanded down on the edges to form the beads. These type of beads
were traded heavily by the Hudson's Bay Trading company between 1700 and
1840 and were probably the single most traded beads which the Indians sought
in exchange for pelts.
The blue disk shaped beads with the stripes are antique African Chevrons.
These beads were made in Murano, Italy as early as the 13th century and
traded in Africa for fabrics, dyes and later for slaves. The ones I gave you
were made sometime in the 1800's. Chevrons are the most difficult of the
glass beads to make. Like the White Hearts they start with a solid white
tube of glass. Only the outside of this tube is molded into a star pattern.
Once it cools, it is then dipped in successive layers of colored molten
glass and allowed to cool. Once the layers have all cooled the result is a
long tube of glass called a cane. The canes are cut into smaller sections
and the edges are hand ground to reveal the star pattern which gives the
chevron it's name. It is rare to find one with seven layers because as you
move outward from the center, the successive layers get thinner and more
brittle. Most six layer chevrons were produced in the 1800's as the families
who knew how to make the seven layer chevrons died out and the secret died
The center bead is also a Chevron. This type of Chevron is known as the
Rossetta Bead, Paternoster, Star or Rosary Bead. This type was and still is
the most sought after of all the glass art beads. The design dates back 700
years to Venice, Italy where only a few select families were allowed to make
these beads. The trade of these beads to other countries was the single
biggest income producer for the Venetian government so the secrets of how to
make them was rigorously guarded and sever penalties were laid down for
anyone suspected of giving away the secret. Eventually, some of the Venetian
glass artisans escaped Venetian rule and relocated to Holland to set up
glass making practices there which is eventually how the Hudson's Bay
Company obtained a supply of these beads for trading in America. This
particular bead is only about 30 years old but it is a Venetian bead.