A Really Lovely Combination of Trade Beads

When I make my Trade Bead Legend Necklaces I often combine beads from different segments of time because they are primarily so beautiful together. They can tell a specific story about a main centerpiece pendant or they can just be the ideal representation of an era of time or cultural experience. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest and have been very much interested in the colorful history of this area the early Fur Trade has been fascinating to me.

Cornalines, Russians and White Hearts

Cornalines, Russians and White Hearts

This Legend Necklace #208 is a combination of those Fur Trade beads.  It has 4 large Blue Russians complementing the oval Cornaline d’Aleppo beads. A blog post about Russian Blue Trade beads tells about the importance of these beads as an actual “legal tender” for purchasing Sea Otter pelts by the Russians from the northwest natives.  More information can be seen about this specific bead on this blog page also. These Blue Russians are definitely the most desired and valuable trade bead from the Northwest Fur Trade.

Cornalines, Russians & White Hearts

Cornalines, Russians & White Hearts

Be sure and read my blog post about Cornaline d’Aleppo to get a good feeling about why these beads were originally made. They are an incredibly interesting bead with a huge history of transformation through the ages. The other smaller red beads on this necklace are also steeped in the Fur Trade history. They are actually Cornaline d’Aleppo’s also, but they were given the name of Hudson’s Bay White Hearts. This gives those beads provenance in the antique world of collectors.  “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!”  See the blog about cornaline d’Aleppo for the full story! 

Cornaline d’Aleppo Necklace & Earrings

Cornaline d’Aleppo Necklace & Earrings

The black beads on this Legend Necklace are black Onyx and black glass. One thing I’ve learned in my bead stringing career is that every single silly bead has a different size hole and to make them come together in the best possible manner is to use some round beads for “spacers” that accommodate this difference.  The spacer beads also provide a safety net for these valuable antiques so they’re not slipping into each other and breaking and they provide the best fluid motion for a necklace. My goal with these trade beads is to make them live again!

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2 Responses to “A Really Lovely Combination of Trade Beads”

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  1. Paul Langley says:

    Trade beads and their use in early American colonies is so interesting to me! I’ve been attending mountain man rendezvous since I was little, so I see them all the time, but I rarely get opportunities to learn specifics about them. I must have a dozen of those Russian Blue trade beads around my house, but I never knew they were used as a legal tender to buy otter pelts. Thanks so much for writing!

    • Janet Walker says:

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. Mountain man Rendezvous are so fun!!!! I’ve “scored” some great beads at some of them. Lots of faux trade beads available to keep the cost of outfitting down, but occasionally you can run into an actual trader of antique beads and maybe “score” a rare bead. I love the adventure and try to attend them whenever I can. The ones I’ve attended have all been on the west coast, but I would like to travel to the NE and see what’s going on there. Check out my post about Chevrons here on activeartist.net. I talk about the Chevrons I “scored” at a Rendezvous!!! Cheers, Janet

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