Padre Beads

Antique Blue and White Padre Beads

Antique Blue and White Padre Beads

Padre Beads (also known as “Peking Glass”) are a type of wound glass Trade Bead used as a medium of exchange for furs in Africa and America between the 1650s and 1920s. Their official country of origin is China, where they were produced exclusively for the costumes of Chinese courtiers during the Ching Dynasty. Latterly, they were manufactured throughout Europe – notably in France and Venice. The humble Padre Bead was first used in trade around the early 18th Century, exported via China to Europe for use by explorers developing trade links with American Indians.

Padre Beads are so named because of their use as prayer beads among Spanish friars and monks. These later beads were of European origin, and were first introduced to Africa by Franciscan monks carrying out missionary work along the Gold Coast. In North America, traders found that the Nez Perce Indians particularly coveted the turquoise blue wound beads over others because it reminded them of the sky (heaven). This was further documented by English explorer Captain James Cook in 1778, whom wrote of his difficulty in obtaining supplies from the Indians without this specific “chief bead”.

Despite the popularity of turquoise and white beads among the Nez Perce, they were actually produced in a wide spectrum of colors. European Padre Beads were also manufactured in three distinct sizes: Dogons, which could be up to ¾ of an inch in diameter; Crows, which measured approximately 3/8 of an inch, and Pony Beads, which were a mere 3/16 of an inch in size. Padre Beads are typically wider than Dutch Dogons, yet smaller than wound Hebron Beads.

Author: Hillary Schwartz on July 6, 2013
Category: Uncategorized
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