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Old Trade Beads: The Ultimate Treasure for Bead Collectors

Beads have been used for thousands of years for various purposes such as decorative purposes and protection from unforeseen calamities, charms. The oldest beads were made from materials such as bones, teeth, and copper. The most popular old beads today are trade beads and they are in so much demand that their value is increasing by about 10% each year.

Trade beads, as the name implies, are beads that were used to trade. These beads were first used when the world opened up and trade routes connecting continents were established. The most common old trade beads are those that European used to trade with Africans for goods such as ivory and palm oil, for services, and for slaves, and those used by European explorers in the new world, or America, to trade with Native Americans.

To trade with Africans, mostly West Africans, Europeans commissioned these beads. Different Europeans commissioned beads of different styles, colors, shapes, and sizes and this is why we have beads that are so different today. The old trade beads used in Africa included Chevron trade beads, Millefiori trade beads, eye beads, and many others.

Africans placed high intrinsic value on decorative items and this, together with the fact that the Europeans paid very little for the beads, was the reason for the success of the trade beads. Africans used the trade beads to trade amongst themselves, as a status symbol in the society, to store wealth, and for various other purposes.

To trade with Native Americans, European explorers used glass beads as trade beads. The first recorded use of these trade beads in America was in Christopher Columbus’s log in 1492 and he used them in San Salvador. The beads were used in what is today Canada, the United States, and some South American countries. They were originally used in the fur trade and to purchase goods.

The reason for success in the use of trade beads with Native Americans is that they already had a history of using beads. They had used beads in their ceremonies, to decorate their clothes and baskets, and to trade amongst themselves. They were therefore very impressed with beads made from glass.

Most of the old trade beads were made by Venetians. The Venetians had a bead making industry that started as far back as 1,000 A.D. and they had a monopoly on the industry for over 600 years. The most commonly trade beads from Venice were the Millefiori trade beads. Arabs also traded with Africans using trade beads that were from in India.

The popularity of old trade beads today started with the hippies in the sixties and the seventies. They travelled the world and brought back these trade beads. Others brought them to the western world for trade purposes. Today, trade beads are bought by collectors who collect as an investment or as a hobby, by people who place sentimental value on them, and by people who want a classy alternative to diamond and gold since trade beads are relatively cheaper.