European trade beads history and dating

15 Dec

African artisans continue to create beautiful beadwork unique to their tribe or region.

These incredibly rare necklaces originate from the Nupe tribe in northern Nigeria.

Fort George, located in northeastern Alberta, was in operation during 1792-1800.

Some of the different types of beads traded during this period were: long and small white, all colors and sizes of round, and barley corn beads (Ray, 1974).

Several centuries were to pass before the artisans of the Venetian area embarked on what was to become a fully-fledged and unique period of decorative glass production, evolving over time to reach world renown and for a period a virtual monopoly industry in Europe.

This shift in emphasis was largely due to Venice’s growing status as a cultural bridge between the west and the east.

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Recognising the value tribesmen placed on these necklaces, European traders created colourful interlocking beads resembling the vertebrae of the snake to use when bartering.

This “trade” period peaked from the mid 1800s through to the early 1900s when literally millions of these beads were produced and traded.

Thus, the term “Trade Beads” typically applies to beads made predominately in Venice and Bohemia and, to a lesser extent, in other European countries from the late 1400s through to the early 1900s and traded in Africa and later in the Americas.

From 1720 to 1774, the Hudson’s Bay Company at York Factory traded 6,934 pounds of beads, which averages 128 pounds a year (Ray, 1974).

No records on beads are available until 1719 at which time York Factory traded approximately 290 pounds of beads.