ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Pandora Beads

Updated on April 18, 2010

Beads are small objects of varying shape that are pierced and strung together as necklaces, bracelets, belts, headbands, and the like. From prehistoric times, beads have also been attached to clothing or to various parts of the face such as the ears and nose.

Beads are made of many materials, most commonly glass, metal, stone, coral, amber, gems, shell, and wood. Magical properties have been ascribed to many of these materials through the ages, and archaeologists believe that early kinds of beads were worn as amulets or talismans for religious or ceremonial reasons, with ornamentation as only a secondary purpose. Beads also came to be used in trade; hence beads found in archaeological sites are important indicators of ancient trade routes.

The English word "bead" is derived from Middle English bede, meaning "prayer". The name was first transferred to strung objects used in prayer, such as rosaries (prayer beads), and then to other kinds of strung objects.

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker
Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Early Makers of Beads

No date for the first manufacture of beads can be given with certainty, but shell bead necklaces from the Old Stone Age have been found. Greater quantities and more varieties of beads have been found dating from around 4000 B.C., or toward the latter part of the New Stone Age. Beads made of translucent calcite in a segmented, or ribbed, shape have been found at Tell Arpachiyah in Mesopotamia and attributed to the early Halaf period of about 4000 B.C. Other early examples come from predynastic Egyptian sites. These beads were made of stone and of blue faience, a glazed earthenware formed of a sand core of quartz grains cemented together and glazed over with copper salts or manganese. This sand-core technique was later adapted for pottery making. Segmented beads of faience have been discovered in Egyptian graves of about 2800-2600 B.C.

Beads similar to the Egyptian type were unearthed from Bronze Age sites in Britain; they may have been carried to Britain by traders from Crete and Mycenae. A Bronze Age necklace of tin, faience, and amber beads found in Holland is considered evidence that a trade route from the

Baltic to England, with amber going in one, direction and tin in the other, passed through Holland. Ostrich-eggshell beads from Africa have been unearthed in Nineveh, Greece, and Rome.

Varieties of Beads

Glass is known to have been used for beaded collars and breastplates from the end of the Old Kingdom period in Egypt, and glass beads were common during part of the 18th dynasty. Glass beads found at Tell el Amarna, Egypt, dated about 1370 B.C. (18th dynasty), correspond to tubular, segmented beads found at Knossos, dated about 1600 B.C., and to beads found in European Bronze Age sites.

A popular type of glass bead was the "eye" bead, made of opaque glass with circles or rods of different-colored glass (the "eyes") pressed into the surface. Notable in Etruscan times were glass "button" beads, made of halves of different-colored buttons cemented together. The bore and the thread passed through the cement, and only rarely through the glass. Glass beads were very widely used and, in certain eras, are the only evidence of the use of glass in ancient times. In Italy the manufacture of glass beads on the island of Murano, near Venice, began in the 13th century and became a profitable industry.

In some African tribes, beads were long used in social customs, especially courtship. Love letters in beadwork were common, the pattern and color indicating the meaning. American Indian tribes recorded legends in beadwork, using codes and patterns that were handed down through generations. The American Indians also used strands or belts of beads, called wampum, for barter or as money. The practice was adopted by European traders and colonists, who spread various types of wampum over the continent.

In the modern world, beads are used mainly for decoration. The decorative bead industry reached a peak during the Victorian era. Heavily beaded fashions went out of style in the early 20th century but had a new vogue in fashions in the 1920's and again in the 1960's. Beadwork and bead collection continue as hobbies.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)