10 Snake Beads

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Object Name: 
10 Snake Beads
Accession Number: 
Overall L (unstrung): 4 cm, Diam (max): 0.8 cm
Not on Display
probably 1900-1925
Credit Line: 
Gift of Helen Stillman
Web Description: 
In addition to imitating semiprecious stones, Bohemian-made glass beads were used to simulate many other natural materials, including bones, shells, and teeth. The market for these beads was especially large in Africa, since many of these natural materials were traditionally employed to create beads in the diverse cultures of that continent. Cowrie and conus shells were extremely important in Africa, and although these materials were readily available, Bohemian glassmakers were able to produce glass imitations that were less expensive than the shells themselves. Many of the original materials were scouted out by “sample men” who traveled the world for new designs and motifs that would be profitable, and who sent samples of the natural materials to the bead manufacturers. The types of beads that resulted were culturally and regionally specific to areas in Africa, India, and Asia, where the “sample men” traveled. Snake vertebrae are another natural material used in Africa and other parts of the world for ceremonial adornment. The molded glass imitations interlock perfectly, just as true snake vertebrae would. With glass, however, the color options are limitless, as can be seen in this example. Snake beads, both old and new, are readily available today. These beads attest to the capabilities of the Bohemian glassmakers and to the diligence of the “sample men” who sought out the natural materials on which the glass simulations were based.
Stillman, Helen, Source
Primary Description: 
10 Snake Beads. Multi-colored opaque glass; molded.
Corning Museum of Glass 2013-05-18 through 2014-01-05
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, p. 53, no. 34; BIB# 134720