Trade Beads Your #1 source for Trade Beads

The Beauty in Russian Trade Beads

The name Russian trade beads refers to a specific type of beads experts regard as short and having multiple facets. Another common name for the beads is Russians blues. Most Russian trade beads come in varying shades and hues of a transparent blue. Besides the blues though, Russian beads come in:

  • Hues of deep transparent green
  • Opaque ice blue
  • Transparent amber
  • A translucent white
  • Other light colors integrated with a transparent blue


As already stated, Russian trade beads tend to be short and multiple faceted. The most common beads today, have a diameter ranging from 7 mm to 11. The strand length usually averages at 27 inches.


Archeological and museum arts have never revealed any instance when Russians engaged in glass bead making. Without the evidence that indicates or authenticates the possibility of the Russian beads having been made by the Russians, the so-called Russian trade beads could only have been acquired from other glass-bead-making regions through trade. Thus the name trade bead.

In common usage, ‘trade beads’ is a term applied to refer to beads predominately made in Bohemia, Venice and several other European regions between 1400s and 1900s. This might have been the most probably origins of Russian trade beads.

Distribution and Availability

Experts are usually emphatic that these beads had been traded to the Russians by the fur traders and the Indians. Similar designs have also been found in Africa and dated to the mid to late 19th Century periods.

Documented history indicates that once produced in these European and near Europe regions, the trade beads were then traded in the Americas and Africa and the Americas. This explains why the beads found their way to Africa (During the 19th Century inter-continental trades such as slave trade, sourcing raw materials for emerging industries etc) and among the red Indians, (most traders found their way to the Americas via the famous Africa-America-Europe Axis).

Modern Day Occurrences

These beads saw their heyday beginning the mid 19th Century, with millions of them being produced, distributed by merchants and traded in Africa. Venetians dominated the beads market then in both production and distribution. However, it was not until the late 1960s when the trade beads then changed direction. The same beads traded to Africans were then exported from Africa mainland and resold to US markets and European nations who had not been impressed by the beads earlier on.

Currently, it is possible to finds the Russian trade beads on sale. Some of the beads available in Europe and America today have already traveled through three continents at the very least. Most have graced the looks of numerous owners. To attest to their extensive use and age, most will have small chips, pitting and corrosion on their patina.


The most fascinating, intriguing and amusing aspects of Russians trade beads remains their ability to survived the hundred years of trading and re-trading in three or four continents. These make them greatly appealing and are among the most valuable antique beads in the market today. The mystery of never knowing who had worn them, how many owners it had passed through, makes every of the available Russians beads exceedingly valuable and appealing.