French Cross Beads


French Cross Beads (also known as “Bodoum Beads” in parts of West Africa) were a popular type of wound Venetian Trade Bead produced in limited quantities throughout the 19th Century. Their intended purpose was use as a medium of exchange or currency in new territories, such as Africa and South America, although they also found their way to parts of Asia in the early 20th Century. 

Yellow and White French Cross Beads

Yellow and White French Cross Beads

So called because of the distinctive polychrome cross designs on their outer skins, French Cross Beads realized considerable value among tribes along the Ivory Coast and central Mali. They were produced in both yellow and white – the latter being far more scarce than the colored varieties. While most beads featured a single cross design in one or two colors on either side of the bead, others were decorated with trailed and cross-hatched designs. French Cross Beads were produced in a variety of sizes ranging from a tiny 5mm to just over 12mm.

The production of Bodoum Beads involved an ancient bead-making technique known as winding or marvering. Glass is first heated in a furnace to make it ductile, then whilst still hot, is slowly wound around a copper mandrel coated in clay or borum nitride. This would form the bead release, which made it easier to ‘release’ the beads later on. While the glass was still hot, it would be manipulated with a flat-sided paddle to achieve the spherical shape. Finally, thinner strips of hot glass would be applied to create the cross design.

Much like old Venetian King Beads, French Crosses were only produced in limited number, and were therefore considered particularly valuable by tribes in Africa owing to their scarcity. They were commonly exchanged for valuable elements, such as gold and silver, as well as heavy animal pelts and palm oil. Today, French Cross Beads are still considered quite valuable, and can fetch between $50 and $300 at online auction. 


Wound Glass Beads – Wikipedia

French Cross Beads - About African Beads

Author: Hillary Schwartz on July 14, 2013
Category: Uncategorized
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