Jump to navigation Jump to search
Nubian beads
MFA# 24.1980
Egyptian faience bead
MFA# 72.2969


Small, colorful pieces with a center thread hole that have been used for decoration and jewelry since prehistoric times. Beads are carved from Stone, gems, pearls, Coral, Wood, shell, Bone, teeth, Amber, and Ivory or cast from metals, Ceramic, Faience, and Glass. Beads were valued; by the 15th century they were used for currency and trading by explorers, missionaries and native American tribes (wampum). Beadwork was woven or individually stitched by hand until machines were developed in the late 1890s for attaching beads to fabric.

See also Glass bead.

Cylindrical beads
MFA# 11.3120

Synonyms and Related Terms

beadwork; wampum

Resources and Citations

  • M.Carey, "Beadwork" The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996.
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • A.Lucas, J.R.Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., London, 4th edition, 1962
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998