Position : Home / News / The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

Time of issue:2022-01-10

Trends in fashion, jewelry and even art come and go, but beads have been a part of almost every trend since the beginning of time. In fact, beads are probably among the oldest art forms. Many experts believe that humans have been making and using various types of them for 100,000 years. Let's dive a little deeper and explore more about the history of beads. 

Bead-making materials

Today, some of the most common choices are made from glass, plastic, semi-precious and precious stones, as well as fresh and saltwater pearls.

In prehistory and ancient times, some of the most common items used to make beads included shells, clay, pebbles, teeth, bones and claws. Semi-precious and precious stones were also used, and were often considered some of the most valuable beads traded. 

Other materials used to make beads included ivory, horn, coral, seeds, and pottery. It was not until later that glass and metal were used to make beads, and plastic beads are, of course, strictly a modern invention. 

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

 Red Faceted Rondelle Glass Beads and Dyed Pearl Beads

Prehistoric world

According to some experts, the earliest known examples of beads come from the time of the Neanderthals. Beads were made from bone and teeth and worn as pendants. Stone, bone and plant seeds were widely used by many cultures, as were plant materials. 

As the demand for gemstone beads grew, people quickly developed more efficient tools and techniques and honed their skills. Gemstone beads were highly valued, but over time, people began to use other materials to create stunning beads as well. 

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

 Opaque Light Blue Faceted Polygon Beads

Ancient Culture

The art of using tiny seed beads to create elaborate designs dates back to early Egypt. In fact, beaded objects, including a pair of beaded slippers, were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. 

Seed beadwork is also found at Shokuroin Temple in Japan, which dates back to 8 centuries after its discovery, and African beadwork in AD dates back to 8 centuries now.

Beads of Europe

A glass manufacturer's guild was born in Venice and glass was produced industrially. Although the first Venetian beads were probably used to make rosaries, they soon became works of art and were again used in trade. 

Driven by the commercial success of the Venetian bead effort, innovation in this field continued throughout the sixteen centuries that established the method of glass manufacture.

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

8mm Multi Color Faceted Round Hematite Beads 

American Beads

Turquoise beads are often associated with the tribes that inhabited what is now the United States and Canada. According to a popular urban legend, Dutch settlers "purchased" the area that is now Manhattan from the Native Americans for $24 worth of beads.

The use of beads in the American slave trade was also notorious. African traders and kings traded beads for slaves. To this day, beads are still used in some African countries as a substitute for coin currency. 

Modern Uses

Today, beads are widely used by people all over the world. Although they are most often associated with jewelry, they are also used to decorate clothing and household items, including curtains, duvets, candlesticks, picture frames, and more. 

Modern beads are made from almost every conceivable material, although beads made from teeth, ivory and bone have largely fallen out of favor in many parts of the world. Most modern beads are mass-produced, but there are still artisans who make beautiful beads by hand. Glass and plastic beads are some of the most popular synthetic materials used in modern beads. 

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the History of Jewelry Beads

 4/6/8/10mm Dyed White Howlite Faceted Round Beads


Since the beginning, beads have played several important roles. Today, beads still have many uses and beads made from precious stones are still a symbol of status and wealth. Jewelry made from certain stones is used to commemorate special events and to symbolize love and affection. Obviously, they don't just look pretty! Whether you love beads because of their beauty, their claimed healing properties or for any other reason, knowing their history should help you understand them better.

At BESTONE, we are proud to bring high quality natural gemstone beads from around the world to your doorstep. Browse our selection today to find the perfect piece for your collection or next project. Contact us for a quote and custom service.

News Center
  • Address: No.662, Heping West Road, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China
  • Tel: +86 311 8366 0806
  • Fax: +86 311 8366 0808
  • E-mail: service@bestone.net