"King" Bead

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Object Name: 
"King" Bead
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
70.3.165 F
Overall H: 1.8 cm, Diam: 2 cm
Not on Display
Web Description: 
Venetian-made beads played an important role in the exploration of Africa and other foreign lands during the age of colonization. Glass trade beads, as they came to be known, were easily portable and durable, in comparison with other trade materials. Beads were carried on some of the earliest voyages of exploration, to be offered to indigenous cultures that did not know glass beads. These goods lacked meaning for the Europeans, whereas many native cultures held values associated with objects of adornment and found great significance in beads. During the height of colonization in the 19th century, many firms specialized in selling glass trade beads, creating sample cards that would be sent to places such as Africa for purchase. The bead illustrated here, which is often referred to as a “king” bead, was exceptionally popular on the African continent. It was wound, and its decoration was applied and marvered (rolled on a hard surface). The form of such beads is usually short and biconical, but there are many variations in colors and in linear decorations. The name “king” probably refers to the belief that these beads were worn by African chiefs.
Lamb, Alastair, Source
Primary Description: 
"King" Bead. Short Venetian Bicones - dark green body with a surface trail equatorial band of blue on white or blue and longitudinal stripes are red, white and blue and yellow; four sets of the pattern.
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. 38, no. 24; BIB# 134720