Glass Beads through the ages!

• 100 000 YEARS AGO

The first glass: Man discovers the obsidian, natural volcanic glass existing since the beginning of time and he's going to trim the obsidian to make tools.



• 5000 YEARS AGO

The first glass beads began to be made in Mesopotamia *, probably to mimic Turquoise and Lapis Lazuli.

*(Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel)


• 1300 BEFORE J.C.

It is in Egypt that the first great era of glass work seems to see the day. From that time, the glass bead becomes more important than precious stones.


• 500 TO 50 BEFORE J.C.

The Celts, called Gaulish by Julius Caesar, create ornaments of glass and introduce the color. This is the appearance of the glass bracelet.


• FROM 500 TO 1500 AFTER J.C.

During the Middle Ages, religious influence restricted the use of pearls for pious purposes:
rosaries, crosses...



During the Ottoman conquest, the major glass producing regions market the beads from the Red Sea to the east coast of Africa, against ivory and slaves.


• 15th century

From the Renaissance, the great explorations from Europe generate a huge exchange market with the New World's populations.
The attractiveness of glass beads on Amerindian populations makes them the first currency of exchange (pearls versus furs).




The glass beads also flood Africa with the expansion of slave trade to the new colonies: pearls against slaves, slaves against sugar, tobacco and precious metals.



The adoption of mechanical processes will allow the creation of tiny and calibrated beads. During the 1880s, the annual export to the US reached almost three thousand tons. The activity combines homework and industrial organization.
They will be very used by the Parisian fashion of the roaring twenties (1920).


• Venice and Murano

In the 12th century, fearing the fire and destruction of the city, most of the buildings were wooden, the Republic of Venice ordered the destruction of all foundries in the city. The glass industry is then exiled on the island of Murano.

In the 15th century, Venice became the refuge of glassmakers fleeing the Ottoman Empire (1453: fall of Byzantium). They will play an important role in the development of Venice glass.

From 1592, the work of the pearls with the lamp is again authorized in the city of Venice. It will become, over time, the city holding the monopoly of the production of glass beads.

• Today

In the summer of 2018, there was some very good news for creative glass bead artists: the glass-bead craft has been included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. (Consult the files here)
It's a great highlight!

As a logical follow-up, The Glass Beads Artists of France, jointly with Italy, begins a process to inscribe the Art of the Glass Beads to the intangible cultural heritage at UNESCO. This validation by UNESCO would be a marvelous valorization of the practice.

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