Trade Beads Your #1 source for Trade Beads

Native American Trade Beads from Before the new America

Beads form an integral part of the Native American history. The making of beads is an old craft that is still valued by the natives. The beads were made out of turquoise, shells and bones. This practice in native America has barely been affected by modern technology.  Sea shells that were one of the most common materials used to make beads have formed part of the Native Americans trade patterns for thousands of years.

The natives used different methods to make their beads; some were carved and shaped using animal horn, turtle shells and deer hooves. When a hunter in native America adorned bear or wolf-claw necklaces, it symbolized the power that the hunter held.

Quilling work in native societies was approached as scared tasks. They sought perfection in the art of bead making. Sacred quillwork was undertaken as a way to fulfill a vow or offer a prayer for a particular individual. The process of making the object was considered as sacred by the natives, but the action process of the ornament being worn or used by someone was not considered sacred by any measure. Their thinking was that the product was secondary to the actual process of creating the ornament. The placed the focus on the vow, and the prayers and not on the object itself.

The only ancient native bead that still survives in modern times that is made by the native people is the Heishii that are made by the Navajos and the Pueblo people. They still employ the ancient techniques when manufacturing these beads. The main materials used as shells (more especially olive shells), turquoise that has been sliced and in some instances some precious stones.

A small hole is made is made through each piece using a hand-pump drill that drills from both ends of the bead. A string is then placed through the Heishii. The smaller the bead the more work will be involved in the making of the ornament which then means that they will be more expensive when being sold.

There were two types of beads that were popular with the natives; big ceramic pony beads that were mostly used to make chokers and dance breastplates. In present times, Native American women adorn themselves with tiny seed beads.

Beads have been part of native history for thousands of years. Beaded items that are made for religious purposes are never sold; they are either given to relatives or made for personal use. The natives belief that taking the time and care when making these items is a way to honor and respect for the spiritual powers.