Aja beads were historically made in Venice in the early 20th century, from drawn glass tubes which were cooled and cut into small slices. Once cut, the slices of drawn cane were thereafter exposed to heat until the glass softened or slumped. This caused the beads to flatten and their hard cut edges to soften and become rounded.
Experts speculate that the process of slumping was in actual fact carried out in Africa as there is no evidence of the slumped slices ever being sold in Venice.
Aja beads range in size, color and canes with the most spectacular being crafted from Rosetta or chevron cane. These beautiful and somewhat unusual beads are today used to craft exquisite jewelry pieces such as those featuring 4-layer â€œyellow jacketâ€ slices.
King beads are old Venetian wound and marvered bicone beads.
There is a legend behind the naming of these beads which holds that these beads were worn by African Kings and tribal chiefs during the mass importation of African trade beads in the early 1970s.
The earliest versions of King beads are dated to the mid 19th century, with their representations having been made on bead sample cards donated by Moses Lewin Levin to the British Museum in 1865.
King beads still hold a place of importance in modern African society where they are prominently featured in Dipo Initiation ceremonies held in Ghana, with the yellow King beads being used to symbolize maturity and prosperity.
King beads are today available in a wide range of attractive colors, sizes and designs â€“ but always in the bicone shape.
Beads made from all sorts of materials including brass, glass and metal may be referred to as â€œfancy beadsâ€. These beads may be labeled â€œfancyâ€ due to the elaborate decorations that adorn their surfaces.
For instance, fancy beads may be decorated with dots, lines, trails and engravings to fit in with their fancy description. Fancy beads may also be shaped after decorating to give them an even more interesting pattern.
Fancy beads will typically receive their fascinating patterns and decorations while still in molten state to allow for easier shaping. During the decoration process, glass rods may be used to apply numerous dots, as well as wavy lines or trails to the fancy beads.
Dating back to as early as 1915, Vaseline beads were originally attractive, greenish-yellow glass beads whose pretty color is attributed to the presence of uranium salts. These beads tend to fluoresce under ultraviolet light and turn a violent green.
Later versions of Vaseline beads were made in various attractive colors including bright green, red, amethyst, as well as an opaque blue green which is the color of fine amazonite.
These beads are large, faceted and shaped into a rondelle shape or flat disk, with popular jewelry designs featuring both forms on a single strand.
Today, Vaseline beads still retain their special significance as highly prized African trade beads.
For the last three centuries, the bohemian bead industry has thrived under the guidance of expert stone cutters who have continued to work with bright red garnets in and around the bohemian village of Turnov in todayâ€™s Czech Republic. This tradition of fine bead making is today evident from the great collections of both old and new glass bohemian beads available on the market today.
Historically, the unique styles of the translucent red glass made these beads some of the most popular African trade beads which were used by European seafaring merchants to trade for slaves, ivory and other goods with African rulers in the centuries past.
Originally made using salts from the Dead Sea, Hebron beads date back to earlier than the mid-19th century. Hebron beads – also referred to as â€œKano beadsâ€, are commonly found in a dull yellow color, although they also appear in various shades of green and blue, although rare. These beads are a favorite amongst antique bead collectors who cherish them for their rich history which saw them travel from Egypt, along the Nile, into the Sudan and even as far as Ghana to adorn the bodies of West African royalty. Their craftsmanship involves their being wound straight in furnace to produce a shining glass bead. The larger of the Hebron beads are referred to as Mongur, while the smaller ones go by the name Harish.
Skunk beads are beautiful wound and decorated African trade beads which create great strands of jewelry items. Originally made in Venice, these beads were commonly used for trading purposes in Africa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Skunk beads are a must have for every collector worth their salt and today grace many private collections around the world. Because of the increasing popularity of skunk beads amongst bead lovers today, African bead traders now have to go deeper into Africa to find more of these skunk beads which are becoming rarer with each passing decade â€“ which of course makes them even more collectable.