Bohemian (Czech) Trade Beads

Bohemian, or “Czech” Trade Beads refer to a variety of glass beads produced in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) during the 19th and early 20th Century, primarily for use by European merchants during trade missions to Africa, Asia and North America. Czech Trade Beads encompass a wide range of bead formats, ranging from bulbous Mali Wedding Beads and oval Colodonte Beads to faceted, radioactive Vaseline Beads.

Bohemia has a long and fascinating history of glass production, believed to date back to the times of Roman occupation in 400 A.D. Records show there were a number of small factories producing glass beads for rosaries in Bohemia around the 12th Century, however, it wasn’t until the 1500s that these cottage industry crafters began to expand to cities such as Jablonec and Reichenburg.

Glass bead production reached its peak in Bohemia during the 19th Century, and is largely attributed to the ‘bead researchers’ who

Large Mali Wedding Beads

Large Mali Wedding Beads

traveled across Europe surveying merchants about the kind of beads most popular among African and North American tribes. Armed with this information, they returned to Bohemia with sketches of prototypes for factory owners. The industrial age also marked a turning point for bead production. New machines and techniques were introduced, allowing for greater control over the uniformity and quality of beads, as well as the speed of production. While Venice set the benchmark for beads of intricate beauty, Bohemia flourished by mass producing relatively plain glass trade beads to order.

Bohemia’s bead-making industry continued to thrive until well into the 1920′s until a series of historic events – namely the Great Depression and World War II – forced the closure of many bead factories in Jablonec. It was during this time that many of the beads produced in the 1900s began to realize considerable value on the Western market. Today, both Mali Wedding Beads and Colodonte Beads are highly collectible; some strands fetching in the region of $200-$300!


The History of Czech Glass, Harlequin Beads.

Author: Hillary Schwartz on August 15, 2013
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Last articles