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Documenting Historical Beadwork

From the Earliest Examples to 1600

By Jonalee A. Crabb known in the SCA as Roxelana Bramante

Not too long ago I happened across a National Geographic show on television discussing recent discoveries in Egypt. The Egyptologists had just found a 2500-year-old tomb, which was undisturbed. They moved the 20,000-pound stone slab to find the inner tomb. Then they moved the 4000 pound lid and found the mummy covered in netted beadwork.1 So then the crew had a decision to make. They called in a preservationist who told the Egyptologist it would take several hours to map out the beads so the net could be reconstructed (the beads were lying in place but the threads had deteriorated). The Egyptologist decided he couldnt wait the mummy was decaying very quickly in the heat. So they wrapped the mummy in plastic foam sheets to protect the beadwork and moved it eight miles to the lab. When it arrived and the foam was removed, it was reveled the beadwork did not survive the trip. The mummy was x-rayed and examined, and within two hours there was next to nothing left except dust. The mummy had indeed decayed.

I nearly cried. Not for the mummy, but for the beadwork. As they were wrapping it up in the foam I kept yelling at my television "Thats not going to work! No, no, dont you dare move it." Who cares about the mummy? There are mummies everywhere but that beadwork Beadwork is more than a passion with me. It is an obsession.

The reason I relate this story is to illustrate one of the biggest problems in documenting historical beadwork. Beadwork has never been the thing archaeologists go digging for, it is a byproduct of the dig. Conservation of beadwork is very complicated because of the mixture of materials involved. Only recently has technology been useful in the preservation process and then it can only prevent further damage, not repair damage already done.

I have been researching beadwork for years. I have found surviving examples of beadwork in many cultures and at various times throughout history. By examining some of these surviving examples of historical beadwork and the reasons they have survived, we may be able to shed some light on exactly how prevalent beadwork was in past societies.

The Egyptians had a love for beadwork. It is the Egyptians that some experts believe created glass originally and glass is what the majority of beads are made from.2 Despite the fact that some archaeologists do not have time to preserve the beadwork, much of it survives.

It was recently discovered and discussed that one piece of Egyptian beadwork, a beaded dress, was reconstructed improperly. The bead-net dress was found at Qau in 1923-24, and was partially, and incorrectly, strung in the 1960s from an assortment of some 3,000 cylinder and disk faience3 beads and 127 mitra4 shells, plus a pair of "nipple caps." Based on a more in-depth examination of the only other surviving dress, statues, and hieroglyphics, the dress was re-strung in 1994. The fact that the dress survived at all has more to do with it being Egyptian rather than its being beadwork, since it sat in the museum basement in boxes for forty years. If there had not been an interest in what the beads had been used for, the dress never would have been strung in the first place.5

The other fishnet dress was found intact during George Reisners excavations at Giza in 1927.6 The climate in Egypt lends itself to the long-term preservation of many objects. The dry heat will preserve a corpse for thousands of years, the number of surviving mummies attest to the fact.

The other great preserver is cold frozen temperatures will preserve things even better than dry heat will. The only catch: something must remain frozen year-round for preservation to last long term. Once the temperature rises above freezing, decay will either set in or resume.7 Few places remain frozen year round, and still fewer have been habitable or have contained habitation at some point in the past. Several mountaintops are frozen year round and every so often a mountain climbing expedition will come across the remains of an earlier expedition. Mountain climbing for sport seems to be a more recent phenomenon and few ancient items have been found on mountains.8 However, other places have yielded some artifacts.

Back around the turn of the century (1915), a grave was discovered on the Asian steppes. The wonderful thing about the grave was that it was deep enough to have remained frozen year round, and large enough to give researchers a wonderful picture of Asian nomadic life 2,300 years ago.

The grave contained three human bodies; horse accoutrements and carriages; and many household items. The roof of the grave was timber, in an area where no trees grew. There were among many other things, three items of beadwork. The most interesting of them was a womans boot. Almost completely intact, the boot revealed some interesting things about the people to whom it belonged.

The three bead-worked items contained very few glass beads, in addition to some pyrite crystals, but the boot also had several designs around the top edge. When I first looked at the photos and drawings I saw beadwork. After reading the descriptions of the items I was surprised to learn the designs had been constructed by wrapping a sort of tinfoil over sinew and then the whole of it was couched down. The final effect was one of a row of beads. Could this have been some form of poor-mans beadwork? The actual beads on the boot were sewn onto the bottom, the sole, of the boot. It seemed a rather odd place to sew beads but as the author of the book stated "It really only makes sense if one were to sit with the soles exposed, just as women in that area do to this day." The boots were only going to be worn in snow, where the traction the beads would provide would have been of benefit or on fur covered floors where the beads would have been protected and would not have been felt on the foot.

The other item was a bead-speckled bag, used as a mirror case.9 Since mirrors were a rarity, they were prized and since the beads also seemed to have been used sparingly, they were most likely prized also. Though several larger beads were found in the graves, these were the only ones that had been put into use. From the examples found in the burials, the assumption can be made that in this society beadwork must have had some sort of status attached to it.

From the frozen north to the Egyptian deserts, at roughly the same point in time, beads were being used. While the Egyptians seemed to have produced the majority of their beads locally, the nomads on the Asian steppe must have acquired theirs through trade, as there is no evidence they were capable of producing glass beads. Places producing these beads at this time were the Persian Empire and China. Persia is the most likely origin of these beads though, to my knowledge, the beads have not been examined as to origin. Once again we find the beads are only a small part of what was found in the burial site and other items tend to be studied much more thoroughly.10

Outside of ancient Egypt, few items of beadwork exist which do not contain fabric.11 The reason for this is quite clear. Threads deteriorate. Woven fabric provides some support to the beaded items and, even if handled, will retain their shape far longer. An item, such as the netting in the coffin, which consists of just beads and string, is vulnerable to damage in many more ways. And once the string breaks there is little way of knowing what the beads were formed into when the item was complete.

There are exactly four items which date prior to 1600, are not Egyptian, and do not contain fabric. Two are peyote worked collars dating to 1500 and originating in South and Central America. One is a wall hanging from China done in right angle weave, a stitch only slightly more complicated than peyote but utilizing much more thread. The last is a group of 8th century plaited baskets from a Japanese temple, formed with just beads and wire.

What these items have in common, aside from their lack of fabric, is their weave. All three of the items on thread are tightly woven, with two or more threads going through each and every bead. Because the weave is tight and very few of the threads are exposed to the surface, and therefore to wear, the items have managed to survive long after other items have deteriorated. The baskets survival can probably be attributed to their ceremonial use, once per year, and their function of holding rose petals at these ceremonies.

Far more non-fabric based beaded objects can be viewed in historical paintings. But while a photograph of an object shows an object as it actually exists, a drawing or painting may show an object that exists in either reality or imagination. A photograph can show an object exactly as it looks to the human eye, with all flaws intact and can be enhanced and rearranged so it bears little, if any, relationship to the item the drawing is based on. With beadwork, as with most things, a photograph can say far more than even the best portrait or sketch, unless the drawing is of thread and stringing patterns through the beads. Far preferable to either a photo or a drawing is to see the object itself, hold it, smell it, examine it hands-on. This will never happen with most items of beadwork. Few existing items will ever be removed from their climate-controlled environments. Few, if any, will ever travel outside their home museums. Many have been photographed but not to the detail required to see the threading patterns. And while historical specialists abound in every field and sub-specialty ever known, there are less than a dozen specialists in historical beads, with even fewer specializing in historical beadwork. Most beadwork is classified with textiles, other pieces with jewelry; more modern items (after 1600) are classed with domestic household items and knickknacks. Beadwork is not a classification of its own.

Having viewed and studied many paintings, drawings, and photographs, in addition to examining and recreating beadwork first hand, there are many conclusions one can come to regarding the preservation of historical beadwork:

  1. What one sees in paintings is very different than what has survived the ages.
  2. Descriptions of beaded items written prior to 1600 leave us with no idea of what the finished item looked like or how the item was created in the first place.

Photographs dont lie when it comes to beadwork. The best photos, especially digital photos, can show details which could not have been captured before so fine, in fact, one can see thread patterns. Such photographs are comparable to a hands-on examination without the preservation drawbacks. Paintings, while they can show how beads, especially pearls, were used, cannot show us how the beadwork was created, nor can they show us the material of the beads. An artist not familiar with beadwork could draw or paint beads in ways that couldnt possibly have existed in reality. Either the artist rearranged the beads so the piece in question would be easier to portray or the item never existed.

Therefore paintings are of minimum use in determining what forms of beadwork, specifically which stitches and weaves, were known to exist or what types of beads were available. While some embroidery stitches or dress patterns (as examples) seen in paintings may be duplicated with some confidence, the same is not true for beadwork. The bead covers what it is we need to see in order to reproduce an item in the same way it was originally produced.

Worse still is the thought of individual beads not being painted because they distract from the theme or idea the picture is meant to convey. Looking at some beaded objects from several feet away, beaded flowers for instance, one can not see the beads. One may not even know the item is not what it appears to be until they are right up next to it. The same can be said for other artificial means of reproducing flowers. From looking at a painting we will never know if a flower is really there, in full bloom and fresh looking. The flower could have been painted from memory, it could be near dead looking, and it could be silk thread, beaded, metal, or fabric. Unless theres a written description of the painting, or a diary telling us what the artist had to go through to set up the painting, well never know. Even with a written description the material of the flowers, or their origin, may not have been thought worth mentioning.

Some items we know were frequently covered in beads. Mitres, ecclesiastical headwear for bishops, cardinals, and popes, are the best example of this. There are several mitres, most of them German in origin, which are still in wonderful condition.12 The majority of these are covered with beads and metal plaques. A photograph of one even shows it is embroidered with beads on the inside of the mitre.13 To support a widespread use, we can also recognize several statues of church officials, in plaster or metal, where the mitre is done in bumpy relief, clearly to denote a beaded texture. And further, we have paintings of church officials and their mitres, many of which are painted to appear jewel and bead covered. Because we have some actual mitres from the same time period we know these painted mitres much resembled the real thing, as do the three-dimensional statue mitres.

Laces and trims are also items that create problems. Last year I was paging through Queen Elizabeths Wardrobe Unlocked when I came across several pictures of 16th century lace in which the beads are woven into the lace. But there are several paintings of the same time period showing netting where pearls are at the junctures and appear to have been stitched to the netting after its completion. Was it the practice of the time to add pearls after completion in addition to, or instead of, weaving them into the fabric? Perhaps weaving beads into the lace was fine for glass beads but pearls were sewn on after so they could be moved to another piece of fabric with more ease and without destroying the lace. And perhaps the artists who painted these pictures did not paint the pearls as they really were. We will never know for sure. The only thing we can safely document is beaded lace was used for edging collars on womens dresses and these laces came in many varieties.

The beaded laces just described date to the period between 1500 and 1600, a time period in which the clothing in Europe is well documented; through existing pieces, inventories, and paintings. With the exception of these laces, almost all of the surviving items of beadwork, prior to 1600, are of a religious nature. The reasons for this are quite simple. The churches in Europe were not quick to change. The style of vestments are much the same today as they were in the early Middle Ages. Banners and wall hangings carry the same themes and designs as they have for centuries and wall hangings, when used indoors, do not wear out quickly. A banner, which has a nativity theme, will only be used one month out of the year, and stored the rest of the time. As long as the storage is dry and insect free, a piece can survive indefinitely, and if it is used once a year, it will be cleaned and checked for damage on a regular basis. Since most of the items surviving took a great deal of work to complete, they would be replaced at a slow rate and cherished for years. And because glass beads have no real monetary value, the pieces would not have been broken down and sold in times of financial need.

A study of German beadwork bears out these facts. From the earliest existing piece, dating to 993CE through the height of beadworks' popularity in the 14th century, all of the pieces are religious in nature except the gloves of the Kaiser. The items belonging to the Kaiser were found in his tomb, the main reason for their preservation.

The following is a list of bead-worked items, in chronological order, primarily from Germany. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it is representative of central European pieces.14  Italy also shows a predominance of religious items while a great number of the items found in Spain have come from tombs.

  • 993CE a small reliquary bag with pearls and metal plaques sewn in a geometric design.
  • 1000s Golden vestment with pearls and stones in an edging design.
  • About 1130 Vestment with design in pearls. Possibly Spanish in origin.
  • Early 1200s Maniple15 end trimmed with glass beads in geometric designs. Most likely the beads were woven before stitched, a great number are missing as are the plaques whose indents remain.
  • About 1220 Kaiser Friedrichs II gloves embroidered with gems and pearls. Most probably they were made in Italy.
  • Late 1200s A chalice done with glass beads, coral, and silver plaques embroidered, and possibly woven, over a wooden form. The only three-dimensional embroidery piece.
  • Late 1200s Church vestment with large cross on the back, embroidered with pearls, coral, semi-precious stones, and spangles showing the apostles.
  • Late 1200s Altar frontal of the high altar of Halberstadt Cathedral done in a multitude of very colorful glass beads. The metal plaques are missing. Pictured is a man putting a crown on a woman, both are seen with halos.
  • About 1300 Altar curtain with a large design embroidered with pearls, coral, semi-precious stones, plaques, and glass beads. From the Cloister of St. Mary.
  • Early 1300s Altar curtain of Christ in his Glory, with large pictorial design of saints in glass beads and pearls. Most of the plaques are intact.
  • Early 1300s Small stole panels of patron saints (there are three of them) embroidered with coral and glass beads. The plaques are missing.
  • About 1330 Mitre with loops and pelicans embroidered in glass beads and pearls. The inside of the mitre also shows bead embroidery near the top.
  • About 1340 Top trim on a curtain embroidered with coral, gold plaques, and small red glass beads.
  • About 1360 Mitre with long tails embroidered in silk and pearls, showing two bishops and the busts of the apostles. Tassels on the tails.
  • Late 1300s Red velvet gown for a small statue embroidered with mostly pearls and metal spangles. There are many of these small gowns in existence; nuns in convents produced most of them over long periods of time. They are usually a mishmash of small decorative metal bits. This one is unique in that it has a panel down the front center, which is more pictorial in its design.
  • About 1380 Chasuble cross (in German Kaselkreuz) cloth showing the women at the foot of the cross. Their haloes are done in white glass beads or pearls with gem stones.
  • About 1380 Miter of golden silk with a pictorial of the Annunciation in pearls and gold plaques.
  • About 1400 Vestment with a geometric design of daisies embroidered in pearls. Also contains metal flowers, stumpwork and spiral gold (also known as purl).
  • Early 1400 Altar curtain showing saints Peter and Paul. Relief embroidery with pearls and enameled plaques.
  • Mid 1400s Vestment of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Very elaborate embroidery with trimmings in pearl.
  • About 1460 Lid of a pyx embroidered with spangles and pearls in the shape of a lamb.
  • 1465-1470 Textile thought to be an altarpiece cover with gold and pearl embroidery showing vines and words, with a gold-bead fringe.
  • Late 1400s Church Vestment lavishly embroidered with silk and gold thread but also pearls and spiral gold.
  • About 1500 a small bag (in German Korporaltasche) with a relief of Jesus and a saint embroidered with pearls, gold glass, and spangles. Also has tassels.
  • About 1500 Small relief design for the high altar. Relief design of the holy family with pearls, beads, and gold thread lace edging.


The first thing to notice about this list is every item on it is bead-embroidered. German paintings throughout the Middle Ages show a preference for bead embroidery. Mottoes and words on dress bodices and beaded headgear are the most notable examples.

It is not until the sixteenth-century when examples of non-embroidered beadwork show up in German paintings. The change resulted from a German style of headdress which was comprised of a small decorative cap, usually tight fitting and concealing the hair, and a separate band, or circlet, resting on the hat and tilted over one ear. This band appears in paintings to be a delicate piece of filigree jewelry or beadwork woven on wire. The caps themselves are also portrayed as bead covered. The trend lasted roughly twenty years (1560 to 1580) and was replaced by a more tiara shaped headdress, with the hair exposed. The new shape was created with pearls twisted on wire and filigree gold work.

The other thing to notice about the list is the items used to do the beading. The manufacture of glass in Germany dates to early medieval times. There are records documenting glass production in Nuremberg and Mayen from the 7th century until 1340.18  About a century later, Leipzig was the leading center of production, notable for sheet glass used in church windows. It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries, when the center of production shifted back to Nuremberg, that glass production became important again. The other area of production was Fichtelgebirge in Bavaria, near Bohemia, where beads and other small objects were made in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Looking at the listed items and the types of beads used, one notices the strong use of glass throughout the 13th century right up to the 1340 end date. After 1340 glass beads are used less frequently in the listed artifacts and the use of pearls and gold become more prominent.

Glass beads never seem to recover their importance in the artifacts but it may also be due to a perceived commonness of glass beads. It is at this time (the 15th century and into the 16th) we find what appears to be glass beads in more secular paintings. Their every-day use would make glass beads a less favored item for richly decorated church vestments since glass beads would not have the same perceived value and would be less treasured, less likely to be preserved long term.

The list of non-embroidered beaded items seen in Europe prior to 1600 is quite small. The items are mainly rosaries, beaded fringe and tassels, the bead-enhanced laces, jewelry items - especially necklaces, and many styles of headdresses. Many of these items incorporate the same types of beads used in the embroideries, though rosaries generally consist of much larger beads.

A marked preference for bead embroidery over bead weaving is easily seen in Europe. The same preference can be seen in Russia. The pieces surviving are a wide variety of pearl embroidered dresses, church vestments, and coffin covers. Again, we find during the mid-sixteenth-century there is a move toward woven beadwork. First seen on icon covers, pearls were simply woven and then stitched to sheets of gold. Later, the technique was used for earrings and other small and precious items.19 Glass beads do not show up in any quantity, which is not unusual considering the endless supply of river pearls at the time.

An entirely different type of beadwork dominated in the Far East (China and Japan) where beads were used more for household, rather than personal, decoration. It is here we find a hanging, the first intact example of right angle weave, a form of bead-weaving. The wall hanging dates to the Ming dynasty and is remarkably well preserved in light of the fragile nature of bead weaving.

Other items from the Far East include:

  • A lantern with beaded window screens dated 1038.
  • A belt fragment from the eighth century with stone beads on the woven threads.
  • A gilt-silver platter with three feet, probably 8th century, with a bead netted (fringe-like) trim.
  • Shoso-in temple plaited flower baskets from the 8th century. Composed of beads on wire, they appear netted because of the wide-open weave.
  • A large tapestry with beads woven into the piece while it was on the loom; early thirteenth century from the Xixia Empire in China.

While the majority of these items are quite old, there has been very little written about Asian beadwork.20   Only recently has an in-depth study has been made of the Asian bead trade. While many beads are known to exist in China and the area has a long-standing history of bead production, little is known about what the beads were used for or whom they were exported to and for what uses.21  Further research in this area is needed before any real conclusions can be made.

Another area which needs a more extensive study is in the Chinese Straits. Chinese merchants originally settled the area of North Borneo and Singapore in the 15th and 16th centuries. These men generally preferred to marry local Christian women and as a result a unique sub-culture was formed. The area is very tropical, suffering heavy monsoons several months of the year. Fabric and other organic material do not hold up even if properly stored. Yet in this area of the world some of the most spectacular woven bead lacework is produced. Woven lacework is much like other forms of bead-weaving but with a more frilly appearance. Most of the items created by a young woman will eventually form her dowry and it is not until she has a firm grasp of the art that she will be allowed to marry. These laces are made to form the bedclothes and other household items. The oldest of these items are roughly 250 years old, but evidence suggests even the oldest of these pieces are the result of a long-standing tradition.22   If an item becomes damaged the affected area can be re-strung, but if the piece is beyond repair then the beads are recycled into future pieces of beadwork. Where these women originally learned the art is a complete mystery.

There is a longstanding tradition of beadwork in India and, as we have seen, Northern China had been producing similar, though less complicated pieces several hundred years earlier.23 The connection between the two, if there is any, is still unknown.

In India we find the oldest known literary reference to beadwork. It is found in the 13th 14th century writings of the Grantha Sahib (2352) by Nam Dev. The small bit of poetry translates as:

Everything is Govinda

Everything is Govinda

There is nothing without Govinda

Just as there is one thread

And on it are woven breathwise and lengthwise

Hundreds of thousands of beads

So is everything woven unto the Lord.24

India is another country which has yet to be studied in-depth with regards to its beadwork. Here again we find a lack of research into the beads themselves. While we do know India has been a center for bead-making, particularly stone beads, for thousands of years, we have very little knowledge of what the beads were used to create or if the beads were made for export. It is possible historical examples exist but have not been written about in the West. Statues of the Buddha, originating in India in the Middle Ages, show interesting beaded designs on the forehead and around the ankles, leading one to believe beaded articles existed and could be quite complicated in design.

African beads have been studied in-depth. Since a great number of the beads were imported from European trade centers, it is much easier to determine the age and extent of bead use. What is difficult to determine is what was done with the beads once they had been traded or sold to Africans. If the beads used were not of European origin or they were poorly documented, then it can be difficult to determine age of an item. Coupled with the fact that in many places beads were recycled many times, establishing the age of a beaded object can be next to impossible. Little is known about the early uses of beads on the African continent and early extant pieces are not in evidence at this time.

In South and Central America, the two wide collars mentioned earlier dating to approximately 1500. Little is known about beadwork in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans. Perhaps a strong demand for beads may have already been in place before the Spaniards set up glasshouses in Mexico in 1535.25  However it is difficult to make that assumption based on the existence of two pieces dating several decades earlier. At least one of the collars was created with spondylus shells, mussel, jet, and mother-of-pearl. The collar was found at Chan-Chan with several other shell-bead objects.26 Other bead items in the Americas dating prior to 1600 are almost entirely necklaces from South America. Little is known about Native American beadwork prior to European contact. We do know early explorers often returned to Europe with beaded objects, many of which are in museums.27 There has not been a study made of these items as a group, though they appear to be well documented on an individual basis.

In the past decade many beaded items have been taken out of small boxes, out of museum basements, dusted off, and studied. This is good news for researchers interested in beadwork. In the past decade the number of specialized books on the subject of beads has nearly tripled. People have started to take an interest in beads and beadwork and what we know about the origins of these items changes greatly from year to year. In 1979 Kenneth Kidd wrote a time line of important dates in the history of glass beads. He dates the first use of beads in embroidery at 1296 and notes early bead colors were red, white, and green. We now know he was off by several hundred years and a number of colors. Things are starting to look up for bead researchers everywhere. Now we just have to figure out in what box the beaded net from the Egyptian tomb ended up in. And to which museum it was taken. At least this time we have photographs to aid us in the reconstruction process.


  1. A picture of the beaded shroud from the Abusir Tomb can be seen in "Abusir Tomb" by Z. Hawass, National Geographic, November 1998. Pages 102-113.
  2. This may not be true at all times. Certain Indian cultures still prefer beads of shell or other natural materials. Glass beads last longer than other organic materials including some metals and therefore are easier to trace. Glass will deteriorate at some point. Dubin, Lois Sherr The History of Beads, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987, various pages throughout text.
  3. An early form of opaque glass, not quite as strong and with a more clay-like feel to it.
  4. Each shell was plugged with one or more tiny stones to give them weight and perhaps make them rattle. They were originally on the hems of these fishnet dresses. "Ancient Egyptian Erotic Fashion: Fishnet Dresses" by Rosalind Janssen KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt Volume six, number four, Winter 95-96 pages 41-47
  5. Both dresses and the reconstruction process can be seen in "Ancient Egyptian Erotic Fashion: Fishnet Dresses" by Rosalind Janssen.
  6. It, too, sat in boxes in a museum basement, this time until 1985, and is now on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  7. Exposure to the sun will also cause deterioration.
  8. The greatest of the mountain finds was a 500-year-old Inca noblewoman. Another natural source of preservation is bogs, which contain tannin, the substance used to preserve leather. Over the years, many bog people have been found, but to my knowledge no beadwork has been found with the bodies.
  9. The beads were lavender, a quite rare color at the time according to Weiss, Gustav The Book of Glass, Praeger, New York 1971.
  10. Rudenko, Sergei I. Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of the Iron Age Horsemen translated by M. W. Thompson. University of California Press, CA 1970. The book is an archaeological description of the findings in a group of graves discovered in the early twentieth century. The items described are pictured in black and white photos and currently reside at the Hermitage Museum in the former Soviet Union. The graves also contained what are thought to be the oldest surviving examples of both Persian and Chinese textiles. I admit I found the horse accoutrements most interesting because of the profound amount of artwork they contained. I dont generally look twice at horse items.
  11. They might actually exist and still be in boxes in museum basements waiting for someone to be interested in putting them together.
  12. Though not all are covered in beads, every miter I have seen was richly decorated with embroidery, with or without beads and gold plaques.
  13. The miter in question has a split top in that the front and back are not sewn together all the way to the point. It is at the point on the inside where the beads are. The outside of the miter is totally embroidered with beads.
  14. The majority of these items are photographed in either the book by Meckseper or the book by Von Wilckens. I have not sited each one in the interest of brevity.
  15. A maniple is a silk band worn on the left arm as a vestment.
  16. A sleeveless vestment, usually an over-tunic.
  17. A container in which the Eucharistic bread is kept.
  18. Pholien, Florent Les verreries au pays de Li¾ ge. Etude retrospective Aug. Bnard, Li¾ge, 1889 p. 13.
  19. The Kremlin Gold exhibit, Museum of Natural History, Chicago, winter 2000. The earring dates to 1613 and is done in right-angle weave.
  20. The first four items are in Dorothy Blairs History of Japanese Glass. Blair breaks down the history of glass by dynasty and examines all glass items, including the beads.
  21. Fenstermaker, G. B. The Chinese Bead Self-published with Alice T. Williams, 1979 pages 36-41
  22. Ho, Wing Meng Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collectors Guide Times Books International, Singapore 1987. The authors argument in favor of a much older origin is rather sound and complete.
  23. Interestingly in Dorothy Blairs book is a drawing of a stringing pattern for a jeweled pillow of beads found in a 7th century Abu-san tomb. The pattern, while it is incomplete, resembles the bead laces in the Chinese Straits. The pillow is dated far too early to make a connection between it and the laces at this time.
  24. According to Peter Francis, Jr., as quoted in "Prosperity, Reverence and Protection: An Introduction to Asian Beadwork" by Valerie Hector in of Beads: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers 1995 Volume 7, pages 5-7.
  25. Harrington, John H. Glassmaking at Jamestown: Americas First Industry Dietz Press, Richmond VA 1952 page 3n.
  26. Dating to after 1470, by the Chimd people who lived on the coast. The other items mentioned are not described or pictured. They reside at the American Museum of Natural History. Pictured on page 601 of J. A. Levinsons Art in the Age of Exploration.
  27. A number of these items can be seen in Geldformen und Zierperlen der Naturv` lker a small German Museum book from 1961. It is a collection of rather old shell bead items from around the world.


Astell, Ann W. The Song of Songs in The Middle Ages Cornell University Press, New York 1990

Baker, Muriel Stumpwork: The Art of Raised Embroidery Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1978

Bath, Virginia Embroidery Masterworks Henry Regency Company, Chicago IL 1972   (Lots of really good photos of extant pieces including some of beadwork.)

Beck, Horace C. The Classification and Nomenclature of Beads George Shumway Pub., York PA 1981    (One of the first bead books - based on Becks research but it covers little historical stuff.)

Blair, Dorothy The History of Japanese Glass Kodansha International and Corning Museum of Glass, New York 1973   (A must read book for Asian beads as it lists them out by era.)

Bornstein, Daniel and Rusconi, Roberto Women and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance Italy University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London 1996

Bossy, John Christianity in the West 1400-1700 Oxford University Press, Oxford 1985

Boyd, Catherine E. Tithes and Parishes in Medieval Italy: The Historical Roots of a Modern Problem Cornell University Press, New York 1952

Brown, Patricia Fortini The Renaissance in Venice: A World Apart Calmann and King Ltd., London 1997

Burke, Peter Culture and Society in Renaissance Italy 1420-1540 B. T. Batsford Ltd. London 1972

Clabburn, Pamela Beadwork Shire Publications Ltd. (number 57) 1980   (A very short book that pretty much skips from the Egyptian era to the eighteenth century without much in between. Still considered one of only a handful of books on the history of beadwork.)

Coles, Janet and Budwig, Robert The Book of Beads Simon & Schuster, New York 1990    (Not much historical data here but a good book for beginners.)

The Corning Museum of Glass Czechoslovakian Glass 1350-1980 Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; Corning Museum of Glass, New York 1981   (One item of beadwork [dated 1830] but most of the pictures are in color and can be helpful in determining the available colors of glass.)

Cunnington, Phillis and Lucas, Catherine Costume for Births, Marriages, and Deaths Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. New York 1972   (Almost entirely quotes from period sources dating from very early to 1900. Some commentary but well written and organized.)

Davenport, Millia The Book of Costume, Volumes 1 and 2 Crown Publishers, New York 1948   (All period portraits with some basic descriptions. Unfortunately it is in black and white.)

Dubin, Lois Sherr The History of Beads Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. New York 1987   (The bible of beads and their known history. The timeline of beads is a must see item.)

Edwards, Joan Bead Embroidery Lacis, Berkeley, California 1966   (Comprehensive and well researched though there are no pictures, only drawings without reference to what they are based one. Over all it should be considered a must-read book for bead embroiders.)

Egan, Geoff and Pritchard, Frances Dress Accessories c1150 - c1450 Medieval Finds From Excavations in London: 3 HMSO Publications, London 1991  (Excellent archeological study of sites in England. Sightings abound in every paragraph so it is easy to find additional sources if you are looking for a more in-depth look at a particular group of items.)

Erikson, Joan Mowat The Universal Bead W W Norton and Company, Inc. New York 1969

Evans, Joan A History of Jewelry, 1100-1870 Pitmann Publishing, New York 1953   (A standard text with a number of portrait pictures in the back - all in black and white.)

Ferguson, George Signs and Symbols in Christian Art Oxford University Press, New York 1959   (Line drawings in a dictionary type text for those with a minimum background in this symbolism.)

Fenstermaker, G. B. The Chinese Bead Self-published with Alice T. Williams, 1979   (Mr. Fenstermaker wrote 23 books on various groups of beads.)

Francis, Peter Jr. Beads of the World Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Pennsylvania 1994   (A recognized authority on the history of beads, all of his books are worth reading although this is his most popular. Also authored many articles in journals and has a website [].)

Gregorietti, Guido Jewelry: History and Technique from Egyptian to Modern Times Chartwell Books, Inc., New Jersey 1978

Hansen, H. J. European Folk Art McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York 1968

Hay, Denys The Church in Italy in the Fifteenth Century Cambridge University Press, London 1977

Hickman, Julia Tapestry and Beadwork Nuovo Istituto Italiano d'Arti Grafiche, Bergamo 1993   (More of a how-to book rather than a history book. Very good for determining what can be done.)

Ho, Wing Meng Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector's Guide Times Books International, Singapore 1987   (Really good pictures, all post period though there is reason to believe such work was done there prior to 1600 but because of the climate nothing survives long term. Entirely bead lace.)

Holmes, Charles (editor) Peasant Art in Italy The Studio Ltd., London 1913

Hughes, Therle English Domestic Needlework Abbey Fine Arts, London (no date given)   (Probably from the 40's or 50's but well written with good photos. Deals with many pre-1600 items.)

Jargstorf, Sibylle Glass Beads From Europe Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Pennsylvania 1995   (The best of her books, however, some of her information is suspect and should therefore be read with some caution.)

Jargstorf, Sibylle Glass in Jewelry: Hidden Artistry in Glass Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Pennsylvania 1991

Jenkins, Cindy Making Glass Beads Lark Books, South Carolina 1997

Joyce, Kristin and Addison, Shellei Pearls; Ornament and Obsession Simon & Schuster, New York 1993   (The history of pearls with some good color photos of early paintings. A must read book.)

Kidd, Kenneth E. Glass Bead-Making from the Middle Ages to the Early 19th Century National Historic Parks and Sites Branch Parks, Canada 1979   (The bibliography can not be beat, footnoted throughout and very informative but only 100 pages.)

Kunz, George Frederick The Curious Lore of Precious Stones Dover Publications, Inc., New York 1913, 1971

Lawner, Lynne Lives of the Courtesans: Portraits of the Renaissance Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York 1987

Lightbown, Ronald W. Mediaeval European Jewellery Victoria & Albert Museum, London 1992   (If you can only read one book - make it this one: Quotes galore, good color pictures, a V&A book.)

Malé, Emile Religious Art in France: The Late Middle Ages Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1986   (Just what it says, with loads of color pictures of smaller items that are rarely seen.)

Mather, Frank Jewett Venetian Painters Henry Holt and Company, New York 1936

May, Sharon R. Scouting Out the Bead Self-published, Pennsylvania 1993   (An SCA text without footnotes, it is not worth much past the basics - a good starting place though.)

McClelland, Eliza Traditional Beadwork: 20 Projects for Beading on Canvas Anaya Publishers Ltd., London 1994

McManners, John (editor) The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity Oxford University Press, New York 1992

Meckseper, Cord Stadt im Wandel: Kunst und Kultur des Bh rgertums in Norddeutschland 1150-1650  Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum Germany 1985   (A photo collection of small household items in German museums. Four volume set.)

Newman, Harold An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1981

Norris, Herbert Tudor Costume and Fashion Dover Publications Inc., New York 1938, 1997

Patch, Howard Rollin The Other World: According to Descriptions in Medieval Literature Harvard University Press, Massachusetts 1950

Patton, Cornelius Howard The Rosary: A Study in the Prayer-Life of the Nations Fleming H. Revell Company, New York 1927

Paulus, Dr. Nikolaus Indulgences As A Social Factor in The Middle Ages The Devin-Adair Company, New York 1922    (Well written and worth reading because it talks about religion and the common folk.)

Pullan, Brian Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice: Social Institutions of a Catholic State to 1620 Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1971

Puckle, Bertram S. Funeral Customs: Their Origin and Development T. Werner Laurie Ltd., London 1926 (A pretty good book - I got sidetracked into reading a lot more than I would have otherwise.)

Schuette, Marie and Muller-Christensen, Sigrid A Pictorial History of Embroidery Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., New York 1964   (Everyone is trying to get this book - very expensive but not impossible to find. Worth the pictures.)

Sciama, Lidia D. and Eicher, Joanne B. editors Beads and Beadmakers Berg, New York 1998   (Several scholarly articles on various subjects related to women and beads. Not much on early items but worth looking at since many of the authors are well known in the field of bead research.)

Siniska, Debbie Decorative Beadwork Henry Holt and Co., New York 1994

Snowden, James The Folk Dress of Europe Mayflower Books, New York 1979

Sronkova, Olga Fashions Through the Centuries Spring Books, London (no date given)

Stanley, Isabel Beadwork Lorenz Books, New York 1997

Suffling, Ernest R. Church Festival Decorations Charles Scribner=s Sons, New York 1907

Suger, Abbot of St. Denis On the Abby Church of St. Denis and Its Art Treasures (1081-1151) translated by Erwin Panofsky Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1946

Tait, Hugh The Golden Age of Venetian Glass British Museum Publications Ltd., London 1979   (A classic by an author who is well worth reading.)

Taralon, Jean Treasures of The Churches of France George Brazillerer, Inc., New York 1966

Taylor, Lou Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London 1983

Trinkaus, Charles and Oberman, Heiko A. (editors) The Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion: Papers from the University of Michigan Conference E. J. Brill, Leiden, Belgium 1974

Van Os, Henk W. The Art of Devotion in the Late Middle Ages in Europe 1300-1500 Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1994   (Lots of photos of period things. Good reading in parts but very deep at times.)

Von Wilckens, Leonie Die Textilen Kunste: Von der Spatantike bis um 1500 C. H. Beck, Munich, Germany 1991  (A wonderful German book with an entire chapter devoted to embroidery prior to 1500.)

Weiss, Gustav The Book of Glass translated by Janet Seligman, Praeger, New York 1971   (I really liked this book, covers a lot of earlier items still in existence.)

Wilcox-Wells, Carol Creative Bead Weaving Lark Books, North Carolina 1996   (The best how-to book on basic bead stitches with projects. Get it before it goes out of print.)

Wilkins, Eithne The Rose Garden Game: The Symbolic Background to the European Prayer-Beads Victor Gollancz Ltd., London 1969   (The best of the Rosary books. Lots of information in a reader friendly format.)

Winston-Allen, Anne Stories of the Rose: The Making of the Rosary in the Middle Ages Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvania 1997

Wolters, Natacha Les Perles Syros, Paris, France 1996   (A French text book with loads of color pictures. Written by one of Europes foremost bead artists.)

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