Venetian trade beads

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Lenght: 57 cm

Weight: 75 gr

Diameter: 8 mm

Units: 48


A great set of forty-eight antique Venetian lamp work glass barrel shaped trade beads from the late 1800s. The main body of the beads is of a opaque black color and it is decorated with longitudinal white stripes. This type of beads is quite are and when found quite often it is just a few of them. These we were fotunate enough to source them in Mauritania.

Approximate dimensions: length: 12mm, diameter 8mm.

We use the term trade beads to refer to the European made glass beads that were used by the European merchants and explorers in the trade in Africa as from the 15th century and continued during their colonial expansion. The history of trade beads in Africa takes us then to the 15th century and the arrival of the European, mainly the Portuguese, to the coasts of West Africa. The European discovered quite soon how much the people they met there fancied beads and saw they an opportunity for trade. Amongst the beads that captivated the African people most were glass beads since the techniques for their making had not yet been developed locally. The locals fell for the precious and colorful glass beads such as Venetian millefiori or chevron beads that the European traders had on offer and bartered them for commodities such as precious woods, ivory, gold and even used, ignominiously, in the slave trade. The increasing demand in Africa of European made glass beads continued quite until the first half of the 20th century and it had a boosting effect in the production in cities such as Venice which glass beads became very popular and coveted.

Lamp working is one of the main techniques for the making of glass beads. Lamp or lamp work beads were made using glass canes that were reheated to a temperature of up to 1000 ºC by means of a blowtorch or blowlamp and which were then wound onto a coated iron rod to avoid the molten glass from sticking to the metal. The beads produced by the artisan by these means could be then further decorated by re-heating the bead using the same lamp work method and applying colored glass rods or glass cane inserts to the surface of the bead creating an endless variation of patterns and making of each bead one of its own.

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