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Mythical or Medicinal? The Alleged Properties of Skunk Trade Beads

Skunk Beads, (often referred to as 'Eye Beads' due to the intricacy of some


Antique Skunk Eye Beads, Red.

spot designs) are a product of  18th Century Venetian manufacturing. Created using the wound, or drawn glass production method; Skunk Beads represent one of the earliest forms of 'lampwork', a process which involves the addition of small glass globules to a set surface, giving the 3-D raised effect.

Collectors of Venetian trade beads are often in the dark about why Skunk Beads are so named. It is thought the name actually derives from the similarities of the bead design to the coat of the North and Central American Skunk species 'spilogale'. Unlike the native Striped Skunk, the spotted variety are considerably smaller, often with very intricately detailed coats.

Of the many hues of Skunk Beads that have been produced, purists believe that only the black and white variety are true Skunk Beads. The highly collectible red variant were originally known as 'Cornaline d'Aleppo', so named after the Aleppo Stone ('Eye Stone') thought to originate within Syria.

It is possibly from the mythical properties of the Aleppo Stone, that the powers of Skunk Beads for holistic healing have evolved. The agate Aleppo Stone is alleged to be a cure for a prominent Mediterranean skin disease known as the 'Aleppo Boil' or 'Biskara Boil'. The skin condition usually affects the face, and eventually becomes a pus-filled ulcer if left untreated. Carriage or wearing of the spotted Aleppo Stone is thought to rid carriers of the disease, and act as prevention from it.

So too, Skunk Beads are attributed with similar healing powers, despite being made from glass. This could stem from the beliefs of certain African tribes that spirits are omni-present, particularly within beads that are 'of the Earth'. Glass is typically produced from silica and sand, along with several other natural compounds, therefore glass beads are considered 'of the Earth'. Whether or not Venetian Skunk Beads possess holistic benefits; they are still considered some of the most beautiful and collectible of all African trade beads!