An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment
Further to the discussion on the use of glass beads in the production of enamelled wares.
The earliest known Venetian glass beads to be traded to Africa by the European boats sailing the Mediterranean and the West coast of Africa were the 7 layered chevron bead this was circa 1500 . This bead , known as shariya in North Africa is still the most prized bead in the African continent. Large examples with no damage and perfect inner layers can change hands for over 2000$ on the world market.
A wonderful video report showing the technique and history of the chevron bead can be viewed at the link below.
If we note the colour of the cobalt blue glass we will see a connection to Moroccan Enamel wares
The trade beads were a great success for the Venetian traders and as the possibilites of using glass beads to trade for gold, precious stones, spices, fabrics and slaves was realised the designs were delevloped to please the taste of the African traders,
We see different colours and styles in different African tribal areas. These were made in Venice especially for the purposes of trading.
One large bead exporting company was called Sick their trade sample cards over the years can be seen here.
The Dutch were also trading along these coasts, and to some part beads became a part of their currency too.
The cores of most glass beads were made from a cobalt blue class, the colored Murrine slices were then added.
these beads pictured are from the 1880's to 1915.
Thus offering the early colour pallette of available glass.
Add to the beautiful colours the belief that these beads were made by the gods and therefore would protect, the need to continue to use and wear damaged pieces of larger beads adds to the reasoning behind applying ground pieces to the surface of jewellery.
By the 1930s we see some changes to the compostition of the glass offering a different colour pallette,
Brighter and more 'Acidic' yellows
And caustic reds!
The new compositions also meant that re worked glass behaved differently offering a different quality to the finished enamelling.
By the late 1940s we find an influx of French beads from Briare and Czech beads from Jablonec making an appearance on the African jewel scene!! . These beads were machine made, from glass and in some cases glass mixed with porcelain.... they were plentiful, colourful and cheaper than the venetian beads.
Again a whole new pallette of colours arrives, and the appearance of the cloisionne changes once again.
this is an excellent book on the subject of beads from Briare.
this pattern continues,
glass in the 1980s from India
glass since the 1990s from China!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I know that many bead historians will consider it a little shallow and would add much much more to the subject.....
This is in part why I love the story of beads, it is personal and researching them can lead in a million directions!
My hope was to illuminate a little of the technique I use when considering enamelling.
My associstion with the bead making villages in the Tarroudant region has taught me so much!
If this subject fires your inagination, I would really reccommend contacting me to make a visit.
Very interesting and nice! Beads are so to say a "science" (not in the literal sense of the word!!) of itself. Love the green ones in the middle of the article, and the ones known as "millefiori", but I haven't any, except the Djenné glass beads, but love to look at! Hope to find some day a necklace of the Dogon blue rings... that allows my budget to achieve.
Thanks also for the links, will look at them!