Skip to content


Traditional Characteristics of Authentic Trade Beads

Authentic trade beads can usually be identified by their worn appearance and the ingrained dirt of several ages; whereas modern reproductions tend to have flattened ends, drilled holes and even a slightly beveled finish. The manufacturing of trade beads, such as the Antique Yellow Hebron Kano Beads (under The Bead Chest's Hebron category) varies greatly.

Size and Appearance

Traditional methods involved manual shaping of Hebron Kano Beads with a planed bamboo stick, which is why you will notice no two beads ever appear the same in circumference or size. The color texture of these beads also varies due to the manual dyeing process, involving the use of iron and copper oxides, extracted from natural compounds. The use of sand and sodium were also popular during the melting process, leading to the sometimes rough texture of Hebron Kano Beads. These inherent characteristics may also be found in Kakamba Prosser Beads, and even our Old Mali Stone Beads.

Dated Aesthetics

Authentic trade beads may often be recognized for their dated appearance – most notably color. Depending on where such beads have been stored (often for years), you may find some have faded slightly due to light exposure. Natural compounds (such as copper oxide) within old Kano Beads often tend to alter in color through erosion and wear. The result is a stunning contrast of green, flecked with brown.


If you look at an authentic trade bead side-by-side with a modern replica, you will instantly notice the difference between design. The Bead Chest's Mali Clay Spindle Whorl Beads are a prime example of beads with hand-inscribed patterns. Compare any two beads of a string side-by-side, and you will notice that the inscribed designs contrast slightly. The designs are carved into the clay by hand, and cannot achieve the same precision or symmetry that stamping machines would.

Loose Vs. Strung

It is possible for some trade beads to be “dated” back prior to the 1900's. Padre and Hebron Beads are usually significantly older than the Venetian counterparts, used between the 17th -19th Centuries. They also tend to be more valuable if strung. Many modern merchants “break down” bead strings in the belief that trade beads are worth more singly. Fancy Krobo Beads are exemplary of popular collector's beads – with blues and greens tending to be the most valuable, and rare. If you should come across single trade beads, you may need to question their authenticity. Why not browse our own extensive collection of strung Padre and Hebron Beads right here at The Bead Chest. Our Old Blue Padre Beads are the most coveted color, of this particular trade bead variant.