5 Goldfish Beads

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Object Name: 
5 Goldfish Beads
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
Average Diam: 1.2 cm
Not on Display
Web Description: 
With the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, Japan was forced to end its isolationist period. In 1868, the emperor regained power, initiating a period known as the Meiji Restoration. With this new government, Japan joined the modern political and economic world, and trade developed. While there were growing demands for new forms of glass in Japan, traditional glass beads continued to be produced throughout the country. “Goldfish” beads of this type were made in Sendai and probably in western Japan, to be exported to the Ainu people of Hokkaido, the nation’s northernmost island. The Ainu, the island’s indigenous inhabitants, adorned themselves with many beads. The glass beads that they wore were imported from Japanese makers through various traders. The “goldfish” beads display technical skill in their production. A single goldfish form was inserted into the colorless bead, along with blue threads that spiral around the interior of the bead, creating an impression of goldfish swimming in water.
Iwatsu, Masaemon, Former Collection
Blair, Dorothy, Source
Primary Description: 
5 Goldfish Beads. Colorless and opaque dark blue glasses; coiled. Coil of opaque dark blue glass thread inserted just beneath the surface; also an inserted opaque-red goldfish form; bore lined with opaque white.
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. 25, no. 14; BIB# 134720
Treasures from the Corning Museum of Glass 2013 (2012-12) illustrated, p. 7; BIB# 133170
The History of Beads: from 30,000 B.C. to the present (1998) illustrated, p. 60; BIB# 69265