Archeologists literally have a field day when they find beads in an excavation. Beads have stood the test of time lasting, in some cases, for thousands of years. There is evidence that the descendants of Native Americans in prehistoric times used beads as adornment in jewelry as well as a way to trade. How these beads were crafted by hand said a lot about the methods and culture of the people of the time.
More certain is the fact that beads have a history with the Native American people. From the materials they used to how the beads were incorporated in their every day lives, they tell a story. In fact, some tribes have “story bead” necklaces where symbols and figures were carved into flat pieces of turquoise or some other type of stone and strung with other beads. Mothers then used the necklaces to illustrate stories handed down from generation to generation.
Wood and bone have been used quite a bit in making beads. The materials were sturdy, lasted a long time and easily fashioned and carved. Semi-precious stones like turquoise were and still are often used in making Native America jewelry. Shells are also another popular material in crafting beads for adornment purposes.
In some tribes, fashioning the beads was a sacred task. In others, only the women were allowed to create the beads. Regardless of who could or could not make the beads, there were a variety of process that could be used. Most often, it was an old-fashioned stone drill bit pumped by hand or even an awl that created the hole in the bead so that it could be strung.
Today, beads hold a fascination for many hobbyists, not only because of the history but also because of the vast array of choices available. Thanks to the white settlers, glass beads and metals like copper and silver began to be incorporated into jewelry design. Beads will probably always be a popular part of jewelry.
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