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Three Common Styles of Fancy Trade Beads

Although intricate beads from Africa's trade era are identified within the “Fancy Trade Beads” category, individual designs recognize certain niches within this category. Have you taken a look at our strings of Mixed Trade Beads here at The Bead Chest? If so, you can't fail to have noticed that the majority consist of wildly colorful, yet extremely varied designs – some more detailed and intricate than others. Such beads are classified within sub-categories depending upon appearance, age and method of production. Some of the most popular and collectible variants can be identified by the following characteristics.

Tabular Beads

Tabular Beads are among the rarest types of Fancy Trade Bead, characterized by the distinct flat, fat oval or elongated oblong shape. Tabular Beads were produced from the mid-1700's to the late 1860's, and were prized for their rarity. Shaping a wound bead even now is a difficult process, simply because glass cools so quickly, and creating two flat sides upon a bead required extremely deft hand skills. The most commonly produced types of tabular beads were Chevrons, early versions created using just two layers, as opposed to the oval Chevrons which had anywhere from 7-16 layers.

Elbow Beads

Our strings of Old Venetian Antique Mixed Trade Beads here at The Bead Chest comprise of a very diverse collective of Trade Beads, and you'll notice that some of the long tubular variants have a distinct curve. These are known as “Elbow Beads”, so called due to the bend or slight arc in their appearance. This was caused during the production process when these beads originally formed part of a much longer glass tube (sometimes in excess of 12 meters in length). As the beads were cut from the tube, the glass had a tendency to arc slightly as it was separated. The result was this quirky characteristic.

Doughnut or Pineapple Beads

As the name would suggest, Doughnut Beads refer to a cylindrical shape with a distinctly thick appearance. Doughnut Beads usually measure at least ½ an inch in thickness and were mass-manufactured from the late 1700's to the early 1820's in Venice. Designs vary greatly and one can expect to find these beads in both Chevron, Millefiori and Lampwork design, as you'll see from our strings of Old Antique Venetian Millefiori African Trade Beads. Pineapple Beads are slightly longer than Doughnut Beads, yet are usually of a similar thickness.

King Beads

King Beads are a highly sought after collectible, chiefly due to the bicone shape and design. Almost faceted in appearance, King Beads are usually found as Chevrons and date back to the early 19th Century. These beads, as the name would suggest are comparatively bigger than many Fancy Trade Beads (up to 1 ¾ inches long) and were produced using the Venetian winding technique. Three-color King Beads, (some of which we stock here at The Bead Chest) are the most sought after and rarest of this variant, which were highly prized by tribal chiefs (due to size). Are you looking for something a little regal for your own project? Check out our extensive ranges of Fancy Trade Beads for a touch of historic elegance that modern beads simply cannot replicate.