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Learn more about Skunk Beads

The term “Skunk Bead” is often used in reference to any bead with a striped or spotted finish, however, not all such beads can be classified as “Trade Beads”. True Skunk Trade Beads are usually old and worn, often featuring tell-tale signs of age with characteristic pitting around the threading hole. Another give-away is coloration; African Skunk Beads almost always featuring a combination of black, red and white detailing. Striped Skunk Beads are considered rare by purists, and are generally more expensive than their spotted counterparts. Skunk Beads are one of the earliest types of Venetian Trade Beads to be mass produced exclusively for trade with tribes along Africa's East Coast, manufactured in the North East of Italy from as early as the 1730's. They found their way to Mali on the vessels of ivory-seeking merchants some time around the mid Century. Beads have long been a medium of self expression among Mali tribespeople, and much like Chevrons, these exquisite spotted beads were quickly adopted by leaders as symbols of their power and wealth. African Skunk Beads are modernly referred to as “Eye Beads” - a name which derives from the distinctive white spots on the outer skin, which are created by applying molten white glass to a cooled wound base. Skunk Beads were, and continue to be produced using the old Venetian marvering technique, which involves winding molten glass around a long steel tube and then rolling it across a flat surface to create a rounded shape. As you will notice from the many examples here at The Bead Chest, authentic Venetian Skunk Beads are rarely, if ever, uniform in shape and finish!
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