Few types of ornamentation are more versatile than beads. People have been making beads for at least 40,000 years. Beadmaking is an art form in all parts of the world, and in some places is work only for the most skilled artisans. Some beadmaking techniques are still a secret, even after hundred of years.
There are very few materials that can’t be made into beads. Beads can be made of seeds, nuts, seashells, wood, glass, jet, horn, bone, porcelain and metal, whether precious or base. Beads made out of gems include pearls, which are one of the few gems that are derived from an animal. Many of these pearls are the biwa type, which are small, have irregular shapes and are harvested from fresh water. Coral is another gem made by an animal that can be turned into beads. Coral is the calcium carbonate skeleton of a sea animal that’s found in shallow, tropical waters.
Other gemstone beads include tourmaline, turquoise and lapis lazuli. Native Americans often made beads of turquoise. Turquoise can also be found in Asia Minor. Its name comes from “Turkish stone.” It’s one of the oldest materials used to make beads. Lapiz lazuli was prized by natives of India, Persia, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Lampwork glass beads are beautiful beads that get their name because molten glass is wound around a copper wire that’s heated over a lamp. In Venice, the secret to making these beads is still passed down only through word of mouth.