As Robert K. Liu says in the forward to Lois Sherr Dubin’s book The History of Beads: From 100,000 B.C. to the Present, “the bead enthusiast is a missionary of knowledge, trying to enlighten the vast majority of people who are ignorant of the beauty, charm and fascinating history that characterize these small, perforated artifacts.”
As I tried to explain in some of our previous posts, these little treasures are among the most stunningly attractive and varied forms of adornment known to humankind. Yet they are so much more than just adornment! Beads have been used throughout the world as talismans, status symbols, religious articles, and barter. They are used to symbolize relationships, the life force, the supernatural, and basic cultural worldviews. Each bead is like a time capsule, containing fascinating tales concerning its origins, uses, travels, and meaning.
In many of my posts you will see me trying to unravel (or at least explore) the mysteries of some of the world’s most rare and precious beads. The book mentioned above – Dubin’s History of Beads, is probably the most comprehensive reference on the beautiful, tactile, fascinating and irrepressible BEAD. While reading it you travel the circuitous routes of trade from ancient Mesopotamia to Egypt and the Indus Valley. You learn of the ancient trade from Southeast Asia to the South Pacific. The writer also covers beads of the Roman World, Europe, Asia, The Far East, North and South America--all are mapped in full color with dates and exact designations of beads that were transported among the cultures of each era and area.To accompany these maps, the author goes into great detail not only about the beads themselves, but of the relationships they played in the religious, economic and cultural lives of each group.
The bead-lover is treated to over 400 photographs of dazzling beaded ornaments from the earliest times to present day. Especially exciting are the inventive and unique necklaces and bead work from contemporary artists. The photography is astounding; to view it is to have a definitive sensuous experience.
I don’t think I will ever stop appreciating the extraordinary diversity of beads and bead artifacts from around the world – from nuts and seeds simply strung into necklaces, to sophisticated glass baubles from Venice, intricate silver filigree from India, painted porcelain and jade-carving from China, and the intriguing batik bone beads of central Africa. For any jewelry designer, the study of bead history can be a boon; READ, and inspire yourself.
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Until Next Time,