Indian beads have been commercially available for over 2500 years, but some of the oldest Indian beads found have been dated to beyond 17,000 BC!
Known for their natural stone and brightly colored glass beads, the traditional uses for Indian beads were for decoration and adornment.
Culture of Indian beads
Indian society has always been hierarchal, with Indian beads and pendants used in ancient times to display status. Indian beads were a symbol of wealth, with those of higher social status displaying precious stones and beautiful gems in their hand crafted jewelry.
Indian beads also marked the wearer with their stage in life, making their wear for symbolic reasons also. Marriage, age, occupation and lineage could all be represented by the humble bead.
Materials used to make Indian beads
Archaeological discoveries have unearthed Indian garnet and quartz beads, and many other precious stones that would have been highly prized.
Stone made Indian beads have been cultivated since before 6000 BC. India is rich with many natural minerals and resources that supply a wealth of semi-precious stones to carve. Onyx, turquoise, alabaster, jasper and lapis are among the many materials that Indian beads have been made across time.
These techniques have remained throughout time, and still are used in many Indian bead productions today.
Indian beads used for currency
In terms of production, Indian beads have been the most widely available throughout ancient empires to modern society. Indian beads were used along the trading routes as a form of currency.
India's important placement along the trading route from England to the Far East meant that Indian beads received acclaim from far and wide.
Trade was conducted in many places through an exchange of these beads. The beads themselves are portable, treasured and easily traded, making their use as currency in these days of trade across the Indian ocean and inland quite practical as well.
Early Indian pearl beads
Among the earliest Indian bead traditions were the use of pearls. They were believed to have been discovered by fisherman along the coast and used in jewelry to display their beauty.
These beads made from pearls were extremely rare and hugely valuable, and for many centuries most of the world's pearls came from this region. Not until cultured pearls were created could the sea beds off India be relieved of their crown.
The decline of Indian beads
The popularity of Indian beads waned when glass bead production boomed in Venice in the Middle Ages. Indian beads have been further threatened by industrial techniques in Europe that could produce more beads, more quickly.
Handcrafted Indian beads are still readily available today. Indian beads promise to share their long and prized history of yesterdays, with the jewelry makers who use them today.
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