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As many of you know I sell many small collections of antique and reproduction items on "eBay" from time to time. Recently I have been cleaning out some of my personal wares in an attempt to lower my inventory.

Some of the most resent items have been strands of original trade beads, some very rare ones I found out. Some of these beads have traveled at least three continents, and have graced numerous owners before finding me thirty years ago. I know very little about "trade beads" and have gained in knowledge more in the last month than in forty years from "bead" collectors. This was a good lesson in "do your homework" when your not sure of what you have.

Of over 40 strands of these beads, some having over 50 beads per strand, mixed varieties from all over Europe to Africa. My very favorite strand that I decided to keep was a group of (30) "Lewis & Clark" trade beads with (3) "Ambassadors" trade beads in the center. This has driven the collectors crazy trying to make deals to get hold of this strand as they are not chipped or cracked, only signs are that of being used. Pictured below are a few other "Lewis & Clark" trade beads that I did sell.

LEWIS & CLARK Trade Beads.

Other names: trade beads, "Lewis & Clark", fancy florals

Type of bead: wound and decorated

Made in: Venice Found in : Africa

Approximate Age: early 1800s

Overall Condition: Small chips, corrosion, and pitting are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. Another mystery is who wore them before those that will have them next.......after us.

Damage, Repair:

Bead size: Beads are 10-15mm in diameter.

Strand length: 31 inches.

Example of a strand of original trade beads.

The term "Trade Beads" typically applies to beads made predominately in Venice and Bohemia and several other European countries from the late 1400s through to the late 1800s.The heyday of this "trade" period was from the mid 1700s through the late 1800s when millions of these beads were produced and traded in Africa and the Americas.

The Venetians dominated the market and produced the majority of the beads sold during this time period. The J. F. Sick and Co, based in Germany and Holland was one of the largest bead brokers/importers during this period. Moses Lewin Levin was a bead importer exporter operating out of London from 1830 to 1913. More information may be found in The History of Beads (Dubin).

Today these beads are more popular and collectable than ever. Thousands of these beads are in private collections around the world.

To learn more about "trade beads" read;

The History of Beads (Dubin), Collectable Beads(Liu), Ornaments From the Past: Bead Studies After Beck (Bead Study Trust), The Bead Is Constant (Wilson), Arizona Highways (July1971), Africa Adorned (Fisher) and the John and Ruth Picard series of books; Volume III - Fancy Beads from the West African Trade, Volume IV - White Hearts, Feather and Eye Beads from the West African Trade, VolumeV - Russian Blues, Faceted and Fancy Beads from the West African Trade, Volume VI - Millefiori Beads from the West African Trade and Volume VII - Chevron and Nueva Cadiz Beads.

Buck Conner
. “One Who Trades” English  
“Uno qui én negocia" Spanish  
Unqui commerceFrench



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updated  05/10/2010


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