On the Trade Routes Cornaline D’Aleppo

20mm Cornaline d'Aleppo bead on necklace with mixed Venetians

20mm Cornaline d’Aleppo bead on necklace with mixed Venetians

We can now talk about Cornaline D’Aleppo’s. They came much later to the trade route but never the less were a huge impact on that route. These were originally mandrel wound glass beads of various sizes but as the demand grew a technique of cane drawing, cutting and tumbling was needed and found. The centers were originally dark green glass with a layer of ruby red glass wound over the top; some had yellow cores and then predominately white cores. The names for these beads are many; White Hearts, Rosy-reds, and Cornaline D’Aleppo trade beads. These beads were originally made in Venice in the late 1300’s, and called Cornaline D’Aleppo to mimic the carnelian and coral bead trade through Aleppo, Syria. Some bead historians say they were made to represent Mediterranean Coral which was traded with a passion right along with the Amber.

White Hearts and Venetian Fancies

White Hearts and Venetian Fancies

The trade for Carnelian and Amber and Coral was so lucrative and prolific that some ancient glass makers wanted to get in on the profits available and came up with a “reproduction” Carnelian. To make red glass, gold chloride is used to chemically color the glass, and it can get quite expensive. The procedure of winding a thin layer of gold chloride glass over an inner layer keeps the cost more affordable and the look is right to mimic Carnelian. This style of bead making, the winding of one color over another, was also used by the Venetians as the basis for their “Fancy” industry in the 1600’s. Fancy meaning any beads made in Venice with one color over another and subsequent dots, pulled feathers, stripes, eyes, stringer swirls, and various twisted patterning. The famous Lewis and Clark beads are Venetian Fancies. Some other names for Venetian Fancies are Kitty Fisher’s Eyes’ Feather beads, French Ambassadors, Wedding beads, Skunks, Cranberries, and Spots.

Various sizes of Hudson's Bay White Hearts

Various sizes of Hudson’s Bay White Hearts

By the 1700’s these single shaped red over yellow, green or white strands of beads were picked up by the English, French and Dutch, brought to North America and became a huge part of the Fur Trade revenue. “Whether working for the various fur companies or independently, the rugged early fur trappers or mountain men blazed trails for the later vast migrations of colonizers of the western United States. They left an indelible mark on this nation’s early frontiers and along their wandering paths, in search of furs and adventure; they left countless millions of glass trade beads, which were exchanged for vast fortunes in valuable furs.”(2) The Hudson’s Bay Fur Company was primarily the purchaser and trader by the barrel load of these White Heart beads, and they became known in North America as Hudson’s Bay White Hearts. “Beads were important to the early fur trade because they were compact and easily transportable. The red bead known as Cornaline d’Aleppo, or Hudson’s Bay beads to traders in the north, carried an exchange value of six beads to one beaver skin.”(3) These White Hearts became a source of wealth and prestige among the natives and were frequently traded following (again!) ancient trade routes!

Bear Mother Necklace made with Venetian Fancy, Cornaline d'Aleppo beads

Bear Mother Necklace made with Venetian Fancy, Cornaline d’Aleppo beads

(2) The Enduring Intrigue of the Glass Trade Bead, Arizona Highways, 1971.
(3) Lois Durbin, The History of Beads, 1987

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