Millefiori is an Italian word meaning " a thousand flowers". Millefiori glass trade beads are also known as "mosaic" beads throughout the world. The making of millefiori beads is a two step process. First the murrine, or cane is made and then it is applied to a molten wound glass core and made into beads.
History of Venetian Millefiori Trade Beads
The millefiori beads made in Venice were imported by the thousands to Africa beginning in the late 1800s and traded or sold for various things. Most of the surviving bead sample cards, showing these beads as they were originally sold, are dated to the 1920s. However, this does not mean these beads were not made prior to that time. A good example of this is the bead time line in The History of Beads (Dubin) where millefiori beads are dated to the mid 1800 through the early 1900s.
Millefiori Beads in America Today
Old millefiori beads started to be imported to the United States from Africa in the late 1960s and were sold as "Trade Beads" by the importers and African Traders. In fact, some African Traders today will show you millefiori beads if you ask for "Trade Beads". Those of you who experienced the Hippie era in the US might remember these African beads as "Love Beads".
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