Trade beads are one of my most favorite beads to work with. The variety of patterns, and different colors make them interesting and different. I really think that they make for wonderful additions to one’s jewelry box and they can easily jazz up any outfit. Because they are so colorful and inevitably full of pattern, I’ve tried to make these pieces relatively simple in style. These three pieces featured here are great examples of what I mean.
The first piece (pictured above) features bright yellow trade beads with red canes running in the middle of the bead. I’ve had these yellow beads for awhile but I didn’t really know how I would style it. Then when I went to Tucson for the gem fair, I found this red bead which I realized was the exact same pattern as the canes running through the yellow beads. The beads on this necklace date back to the late 19th century. I didn’t want this piece to be overwhelming so I decided to go for a sautoir style necklace. I think this style makes these beads more wearable. Just layer over a plain shirt and you’re good to go.
The second piece features two black eye beads from the Venetian trade and a lovely Venetian fancy trade bead. While the Venetians were master bead makers, they were greatly inspired by ancient Islamic bead makers. One pattern they took and made their own was the eye motif which was greatly prized by Africans. The eye beads were believed to be powerful protection against the evil eye. The two black eye beads featured here are the Venetians version of an ancient Islamic bead and date back to the 19th century. The yellow fancy bead on the other hand is the Venetian version of the highly prized African Bodom bead. The Venetian versions are increasingly difficult to find and I was lucky to have found an excellent specimen. For these beads, I decide to make a shorter necklace that’s designed to sit on the collarbone. Perfect under button down shirts!
And last but not the least is this bracelet composed of blue and yellow trade beads. While the colors are the same, the pattern is not exactly the same. The small football shaped beads are harder to find than the round ones and the canes used in the beads are more apparent here. Eh voila… a couple of new pieces to start the week on the right note!