Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Square cut beads on lace bobbin spangles


Many nineteenth century lace bobbins have spangles of square cut beads. They are made of glass, are a square shape, and have an indented or pitted surface. Most of those in the image are clear or transparent red, the most common colours, but two are opaque blue. The bobbin maker Robert Haskins in an interview with The Bedfordshire Times and Independent in 1912 described how they were made. They were not cut at all but melted off a stick of glass one at a time. They were twirled on a copper wire to make the central hole and pressed with files to make the square shape and the surface markings. Haskins was taught to make them as a bobbin maker but beads like the two blue ones were also used for trading in Africa so might have been more commonly available. The Pitt Rivers Museum has sample cards of beads labelled ‘Trade beads for South Africa’ sold by a company in London. Whether the beads used in the bobbin spangles were obtained from the same source or whether they were made by the bobbin makers is not known, perhaps it was a mixture of both.

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