Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Trade beads in lace bobbin spangles


Many of the beads on these lace bobbin spangles were originally made for trading in Africa and North America. Trade beads were made in varying sizes and colours and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has several trade cards of beads in graded sizes and colour ranges labelled according to the market they were made for. The card labelled ‘Trade beads for South Africa’ has round, plain beads coloured blue, brown and yellow like those in the spangles in the photo. The beads on the Central African trade card are much more decorative with patterns and come in a variety of bright colours and lozenge shapes as well as spheres. The beads were sold by weight and are also known as pound beads. They were imported from Amsterdam and Venice and although their main destination was the shipping companies of Liverpool and Bristol some must also have been sold in the home market as they are quite common on lace bobbins. The traditional beads on lace bobbins are the square cut type made in the lace making areas (like the clear ones on the second bobbin on the right) and I’ve not been able to find out where the lacemakers obtained these trade beads. Perhaps the bobbin makers acquired them and sold them or the lacemakers bought them from travelling salesmen.

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