King Beads

King Beads are a type wound Venetian trade bead produced throughout the 19th and 20th Century in Murano, Venice, primarily for trade with Africa and America. They are distinguishable from striped Chevron Beads by their bicone shape, and the fact they do not feature a rosetta around the perforation hole. African legend tells that King Beads got their name because of their popularity among tribal chiefs up until the 1970s.

The earliest known examples of King Beads feature on numerous sample cards donated by Moses Lewin Levin to the British Museum around 1865. Early 20th Century King Beads (dated 1920) also feature within a collection of sample cards donated by Sick and Co; a German company who, until 1964, were one of Europe’s largest exporters of Trade Beads to Africa.

King Beads are one of the earliest types of biconical Trade Bead to have been produced by the marvering method. A marver is a long, thin rod made of copper, around which heated glass is slowly wound. A paddle or steel flipper is used to shape the glass whilst hot, and trails of colored glass then applied to create the distinctive polychromatic stripes. Nineteenth century King Beads were commonly produced in black, green and yellow varieties, with trailed horizontal stripes in two to three colors. 


King Beads, About African Beads

Author: Hillary Schwartz on July 21, 2013
Category: Uncategorized
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