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The history of beads

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From the late fifteenth to the twentieth century, explorers and traders carried European glass beads throughout the world. The beads were enormously popular in Africa and North America in particular. The result of this seemingly inexhaustible demand led to a proliferation of bead types, designs, and manufacturing techniques. Sizes ranged from micro (less than 1 millimeter) to macro (13 centimeters long). Worked over a flame, these beads were produced by first winding filaments of glass on a wire or mandrel (metal rod). While still viscid, the crude bead was then paddled or rolled over a flat, grooved, or contoured form to produce various shapes. Again worked over a flame, thin canes of glass were then trailed or thin cross sections of canes were applied to the surface. The bead was again paddled or shaped, forcing the applied layered design into the background glass and yielding a smooth, finished product. Beads shown 7/8 of actual size. Picard Trade Bead Museum, Carmel, California.