Antique Beads: Why Vintage Beads are so Special

Antique beads are all beads older than a hundred years. They make great collector’s items because their value has been increasing by about ten percent annually. Antique beads are not often used as ornaments to avoid damage.

The Original Use of Antique Beads

Most antique beads were used as trade beads. However, Silver and other metals were also used to make beads that are today antiques.

Trade beads were mostly used to trade with Native American Indians and Africans. This followed the establishment of trade routes. Native American Indians and Africans did not have any use for European money and the Europeans did not have the intention of their using money to trade with them.

Trade beads were introduced in Africa by Europeans and Arab traders. Arab traders got their beads from India while European traders got their beads mostly from Venice. Trade beads were used between the 16th and the 20th century, but the trade with the Europeans intensified from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century. The trade with Africans, mostly West Africans, was so important to the Europeans that some beads such as Millefiori beads, eye beads, Chevron beads, feather beads, and striped melons beads were made specifically for trade in African. From Africa, the Europeans got goods such as ivory and gold, services, and slaves. The Europeans also used the beads to ease their way into the hearts of Africans in preparation for colonization.

The Venetians had a long history of making beads and most of the antique beads in the market today were made in the small Venetian town of Murano. The most widely used trade beads were Millefiori beads. Millefiori is a combination of two Italian words, ‘mille’, meaning one thousand, and ‘fiori’, meaning flower. The beads were made on commission by the Europeans, meaning no two orders were exactly the same, and they were characterized by their elongated shape and their colorful designs. The Africans were mesmerized by the beautiful beads and they used them to trade and to store wealth.

In America, Christopher Columbus, the first European to explore the continent, recorded that he used trade beads to impress the natives of San Salvador. Native American Indians already had a history of using beads in their ceremonies, to trade, and as decorations and they were enthusiastic to accept the trade beads. For the beads, the Europeans got horses and good such as fur.

Antique beads from North America are very rare because the United States was formed in the 18th century, meaning most of the beads were used before that time. Just like in Africa, many of the beads used to trade with the Indians were Venetian.

Facts about Antique Beads

Although most antique beads in the market today were trade beads with Native American Indians and Africans, other countries also have the beads, some of which were originally used for trade, others for ceremonial purposes, and others for decorative purposes.

To get the best antique beads, you must understand the history of the beads and determine whether they are the real thing. Beads that are over one hundred years old are usually fragile and there are usually signs of aging and wear.

The methods used to make these beads are still being used today and to lower costs, you should consider buying such beads.

Antique beads come in all sizes, shapes, and colors because they are made by different artisans using different materials.

Buying Antique Beads

You can buy the beads online or offline, but the internet has an edge over a jewelry store because you get a larger selection, you can buy anytime and from any place, the costs are low due to intense competition and low overhead costs, and the purchase will be anonymous.

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