Colodonte Beads

Colodonte Beads (also known as “tomato”, “pigeon egg” and “hummingbird egg” beads) are a type of wound, drawn bead originally produced in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) during the 1900s. The modern nicknames given to these beads derive from the fact they bear a close resemblance in shape to the eggs of small wild birds. Early Colodonte Beads were predominantly opaque red or burnt orange in color – hence their sometimes being referred to as “tomato beads”.

Red Colodonte (Tomato) Beads

Red Colodonte (Tomato) Beads

The mysterious history of Colodonte Beads has led to considerable speculation in online forums as to their intended use. The name “Colodonte” is believed to be of Italian origin; “colo” deriving from the Italian word “colore” (meaning color), and “donte”, which loosely translated means “everlasting”. However, there is no evidence to suggest that these beads were produced in Venice, lending credibility to the theory that artisans in Bohemia may have been producing them specifically for Italian merchants to use as currency overseas. The vast majority of old Colodonte Beads sold today originate from present day Mali and other coastal parts of West Africa.

Colodonte Beads are distinguishable from other Bohemian Trade Beads by their oval shape and smooth finish. The blemish free, glossy skin of the beads is similar in appearance to tomato skin – perhaps another reason they earned the moniker “tomato beads”. Nearly all trade beads of this type are round or oval in shape, however can vary in size from 20 – 40 mm in diameter. Colodonte Beads manufactured during the 19th Century typically suffer minor pitting – a tell-tale sign of their age and fascinating history.

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