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Antique African Beads for Collectors

Like most historic art works, Antique African Beads have come to realize considerable value in today's collector's markets. As one of the oldest forms of money in the world, some Antique African Beads are also highly sought after by currency collectors. But, unlike many types of art, age is not the only influence upon the value of Antique Beads. Here we look at just a few of the most popular varieties, and what makes them so collectible.

Millefiori Beads

Millefioris (also known as “thousand flower beads”) are one of the most sought after varieties of Venetian Trade Beads here at The Bead Chest due to their history and beauty. Produced in Murano, Venice, from the 1400s onwards, they played a pivotal role in African-European trade relations until the early 20th Century, exchanged for both dry goods and slaves along the Ivory Coast. Despite the vast quantities produced in Murano, Millefiori Beads made prior to the 20th Century are notoriously hard to come by.  And this is one of the primary factors that influences their high value in comparison to other Venetian Trade Beads.

Moon Beads

Opalescent glass beads (commonly referred to as “Moon Beads”) have a somewhat mysterious history. There is evidence to suggest they were produced in Germany and old Bohemia. However, it's more than likely they were a product of the Murano glass factories in Venice, since glass-makers were producing similar beads as early as 1693. Their high collectability and value stems from the fact they were only made in limited quantities during the 19th Century – hence why we only carry limited stocks here at The Bead Chest!

Snake Beads

Bold, versatile and completely unique, it's little wonder that Snake Beads are popular among jewelry artists and collectors. Central to their appeal is their amazing interlocking capability; a design inspired by real snake vertebrae commonly worn by African tribal chiefs. Another factor for their popularity is their rarity. There were only three companies in Europe producing these beads during the 19th Century: Bapterosses of France, the Redlhammer Brothers in Bohemia, and Germany's famous Risler Company. Bapterosses were the pioneers of the Prosser molding technique used to make interlocking Snake Beads, which is why you'll generally find they're far more expensive and scarce than other varieties.

Mixed Trade Beads

The Mixed Trade Beads sold here at The Bead Chest are among our most popular products. But, their popularity has little to do with their age. For most collectors, it's actually the novelty of not quite knowing what they're going to get! Our strings of Mixed Trade Bead strands comprise many different types of Venetian Trade Beads, including highly sought after Millefioris and Chevrons made prior to the 19th Century. If you're lucky, you may also find a rare Red or White Heart! Strands of Mixed Trade Beads were traditionally worn by senior tribe members as symbols of wealth and status, which is why they're commonly sold as is on old raffia.

As relics from one of the most fascinating periods in Africa's history, the value of old Trade Beads cannot be disputed. Which antique trade beads interest you the most?