|Other Names||Trade Beads|
|Type of Object||Vulcanite|
|Overall Condition||Good. Some of our beads have traveled at least three continents, and have graced numerous owners. Small chips, corrosion, and pitting are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.|
|Damage/Repair||Dirt and general wear.|
|Bead Size||6 mm diameter. See picture with penny for size comparison (US penny is 19 mm diameter).|
|Strand Length||34 inches|
|Type||Strand of Beads|
PICTURE IS AN EXAMPLE. YOURS WILL BE VERY SIMILAR TO THE LISTING PHOTOS.
This strand is not intended to be a ready-to-wear necklace. Although the strand can be worn "as is," the raffia holding it together is not durable and may break with use. For this reason, we recommend that you restring the beads before wearing them.
Vulcanite is a hard, moldable rubber that has been formed by “vulcanizing” natural rubber through a curing process that involves high heat and the addition of sulfur. The result is a hard substance sometimes called “ebonite” that was used in the Victorian period to make mourning jewelry, combs, ornaments and buttons. Queen Victoria was known to wear it in tribute to her deceased husband, Albert. Today vulcanite is popularly used in the form of “heishi” in strands of beads.
The term "Trade Beads" typically applies to beads made predominantly in Venice and Bohemia and other European countries from the late 1400s through to the early 1900s and traded in Africa and the Americas. Many of these beads have been attributed to being made in Germany, France and the Netherlands as well.
The heyday of this "trade" period was from the mid 1800s through the early 1900s when millions of these beads were produced and traded in Africa. The Venetians dominated this market and produced the majority of the beads sold during this time. The J.F. Sick and Co, based in Germany and Holland was one of the largest bead brokers/importers during this period. Moses Lewin Levin was a bead importer/exporter who operated out of London from 1830 to 1913.
The popularity of these beads was revived in the late 1960s when they began to be exported from Africa into the United States and Europe. The term "Trade Beads" became very popular during this time period and is still used for the same bead reference today. The millefiori beads were also called "Love Beads" and used in necklaces with peace symbols during the Hippie days.
As the popularity and availability of these old beads grew they started getting "named". We started hearing terms like "Russian Blues", "Dutch Donuts", "King Beads". Although some of these folklore names are totally meaningless...ie...."Lewis and Clarke" beads, they do describe a specific type of bead.
And today these beads are more popular and collectable than ever. Thousands of these beads are in private collections around the world. The African Traders are having to go deeper and deeper into Africa to find more of these beads and many styles which were readily available just 5 years ago are no longer seen today.
There are exceptional museum collections of trade beads at the Museum of Mankind in London, the Pitt River Museum in Oxford, the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium, the Murano Museum of Glass in Italy, the Tropical Royal Institute of Amsterdam, the Bead Museum in Arizona, US and the Picard Trade Bead Museum in California, US to name a few.
One of the most intriguing aspects to these beads is how they have survived a hundred or more years of wear and the travel through at least three continents. Another mystery is who wore them before us and who will have them next.......after us.