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Learn more about Prosser Beads

Prosser Molded Beads, a type of Trade beads are named after the brothers Richard and Thomas Prosser who invented a machine to mold clay in England in 1840. The machinery applies pressure to clay in a die that can subsequently be removed and fired to create a porcelain-like material. Articles made using the Prosser technique may be identified based on a thin but subtle seam along the equator of one edge. The beauty of this system is that it can produce beads in a uniform and exact pattern. Originally applied for making buttons, the system was later adapted to make beads.

The first Prosser Beads were made in France by Jean-Felix Bapterosses between 1860-1864. Later, the Prosser method was used to make beads also of Bohemian, Czech, German, and Italian origin. Prosser Beads were exported in large quantities primarily to South America, the Middle East, and Africa where they were used extensively for trade. The production of Prosser Beads went into decline in the 1950s and 1960s due to a combination of factors including the prominence of less expensive Czech beads, the adoption of cheaper materials in the bead making industry, and the independence of African countries. The production of Prosser Beads has been resurrected to some extent in present day Morocco.

One of the most well known types of Prosser Beads is the Kakamba Bead. Kankanmba Beads are typically opaque multi-colored trade beads that today are sourced primarily from West Africa. The Kancamba can be found in most colors of the rainbow both as solid colored beads but also with a freckled or mottled patterning of combinations of colors. Several shapes of the bead are also available including small thin cylinders and larger more flat varieties. Other types of Prosser Beads include Sliced Blue, Sliced Green, and Sliced Yellow Prosser Beads.