Logo Beading History
Return to Sampler Main Page
I have eliminated the Navigation Bar
on this page so that you can
make your own personal copy.
Just return to the Main Sampler Page
to move around Beadwrangler's.
Beading has been partners with fiber since the first of humankind pulled a piece of vine from a plant, picked up a rock, shell or seed with a natural perforation, and strung the vine through the perforated object to tie around her/his neck and wear. It does not matter whether that person wore the object as personal adornment, to imbue her/him with powers or for other symbolic reasons; this was the beginning of bead stringing and bead and fiber’s history together. Bead Stringing is where beading began.

Most people consider "beading" working with very small beads to create complex integrated forms that become decorative ornamentation. Beading today can not be considered only small beads combined. Artists are creating large complex forms with large beads or large representational objects, as well as using the smaller beads. Beading is common to every continent and most cultures of the past and present. For most people who take up beading, it becomes a way of life; you breathe beads, feel them, need them and want more of them. The joy is in collecting beads and creating with beads . When beading, you are transcended, much like a spiritual or meditational experience. If this is not happening when you are beading, then you are missing what it is all about. Weaving, crocheting and knitting with fiber are the closest activities I find that equals the pleasure of beading. Combine the fiber and beads and you have the best of both worlds.

Beading has gained popularity and died off only to come back again each time with a new look. From the 1800’s through the early 1900’s, beading with small beads had its heyday. From 1830-1850, the tiniest beads, the most beautiful colors and graduations of colors were produced. These included sizes 20/0 and smaller. These small size beads are antiques and are no longer made because the process is too labor intensive. In the 1990's, the price for the smallest beads zoomed up due to their popularity.  These tiny beads continue to be in demand today. Beads continued to be popular through the 1950’s in designer clothing and purses. Native American and Oriental beadwork was popular from the early 1800’s through  the mid-1900’s. The 1960’s brought love beads, the 1970’s brought back larger beadwork with macramé and bead embroidery. Until the mid 1980’s, beads and beading were primarily for ornamentation; there had been little thought of the historical aspect of beads. Beads have continued to be used in costumes and haute couture of the rich and famous for decades. Some of the best beading how-to books of the past were those created primarily for bead knitted and crocheted purses in the 1800’s through the early 1900’s. Priscilla Bead Work Book 1912, and Emma Post Barbour’s New Bead Bookwork 1927, and Hiawatha presents Beaded Bags and Accessories 1930-40, and Walco Bead Company’s Wood Bead Craft booklets in 1930’s were some of the best sources of beading techniques during that time. Edited versions of some of these books are being published again because of the popularity of beading today.

The mid-1980’s set the stage for the massive bead mania of the 1990’s. Bead researcher Peter Francis was one of the first individuals interested in the history of beads and began an extensive study and cataloging them in the late 1970’s. There were several pioneers of beading techniques and the history of beads information. Joan Mowat Erikson wrote The Universal Bead, 1969, which was one of the first books stating beads had a history. William C. Orchard authored Beads and Beadwork of The American Indians in 1975 and details the history of Native American beadwork and includes actual instructions to recreate beading techniques. This book is still one of the best beading references available, especially for loomwork. Indian Bead-Weaving Patterns by Horace Goodhue in 1984 is another source of great how-to of beading techniques. Some of these authors have recently died, however, they have left a legacy of beading how-to that has  set the stage for beading to become an accepted artform and beads receive their rightful place in the history of humankind.    Native American's sharing of beading techniques has made an enormous contribution to the advancement of beadwork in the USA.  Most archaeologists began to study beads about 30 years ago and consider them historically significant. In the last 10 years, several books have been written on the history of beads. however, beadwork history is very scarce. The 1990's ushered in hundreds of how-to beading books being authored, more and more bead related magazines, and beading history is the newest subject for books, studies and interest.

The internet has set a new stage in the bead and fiber world. Bead enthusiasts can share information, buy beads, as well as read book reviews and learn new techniques over the internet. This will create a tremendous jump in the bead and fiber movement that is currently gaining momentum. We are now experiencing a crossover of ideas like never before in the bead and fiber community. Glassmakers, lapidary, gold and silversmiths, wireworkers and bead and fiber artists are sharing information and working together much like the Impressionists did in the past. Fiber artists are adding beads to their work and beaders are adding fiber to their beading. Bead people are joining fiber organizations and fiber people are joining bead societies, bringing their mediums closer together. Bead societies have cropped up all over the world. There are more than 50 in the U.S and several around the world. The Bead Society of Great Britain has members from around the world and publishes a very professional newsletter of interest to all beaders.

The History of Beading is a story of social and economic impact on people of every continent and culture, of romance and intrigue, passion and obsession and revival of old ideas into new.

Return to Sampler Main Page