Millefiori is an Italian word meaning " a thousand flowers". Millefiori beads are also known as "mosiac" beads throughout the world. The making of millefiori beads is a two step process. First the murrine or cane is made and then these are applied to a molten wound glass core and made into beads.
The millefiori beads made in Venice were imported by the thousands to Africa beginning in the late 1800s and traded or sold for various things. Most of the surviving bead sample cards, showing these beads as they were originally sold, are dated to the 1920s. However, this does not mean these beads were not made prior to that time. A good example of this is the bead timeline in The History of Beads (Dubin) where millefiori beads are dated to the mid 1800 through the early 1900s.
Old millefiori beads started to be imported to the United States from Africa in the late 1960s and were sold as "Trade Beads" by the importers and African Traders. In fact, some African Traders today will show you millefiori beads if you ask for "Trade Beads". Those of you who experienced the Hippie era in the US might remember these as "Love Beads" .
These are wonderful beads with thousands of patterns and colors. To read more about millefiori beads and to see thousands of examples please see Volume VI- Millefiori Beads From the West African Trade (Picard)
We have some wonderful examples of old Venetian Millefiori Trade beads in our eBay store, Africa Direct.
Copyright Africa Direct 2006