Green Heart Beads (also known as “Hudson’s Bay Trade Beads”, or more simply “Green Hearts”) are a collectible variety of Venetian trade bead produced between 1480 and the 1800′s in Murano, Venice. They are descended from the two-tone compound beads known as “White Hearts” or “Cornaline D’Aleppo”, which were manufactured exclusively as a medium of exchange (currency) for furs in North America and Africa by the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company.
Green Heart Beads are distinguishable from Cornaline D’Aleppo by their brick red color and translucent green core. White Hearts are typically ruby or scarlet red with a translucent white or gray core. The coloration of these popular Venetian glass beads was achieved by adding gold oxide to pink or purple glass. Initially, glass-makers were using gold oxide to produce beads in red only (possibly to imitate the popular carnelian beads traded in Africa), however this proved too expensive long-term. They decided to produce cheaper beads by creating a translucent core from untreated glass, and simply coating it with a thin layer of red colored glass. Green was used for the core until 1830, after which white and yellow glass were used.
Like Cornaline D’Aleppo, Green Heart Beads were produced in limited quantities between 1480 and 1830 due to the sheer expense involved. Because of their scarcity, they’re widely considered to be some of the most valuable and collectible types of trade beads on the market today.