Friday, June 10, 2011

Chevron Or Rosetta Star Beads 1500-1900

My Collection, a Mix of Old and New Red, White and Blue Chevrons
My matched strand from the same cane
I always promised myself I wouldn't get hooked on Beads, but sooner or later you just have to have something to wear with your red, white and blue regalia and I just couldn't help but fall in love with these Chevrons I have collected over the past few years. I finally have them strung up in a useable and ascetic form and can't wait to try them on when I am all "Dressed Up".

My collection consists of a long strand of matched graduated old seven layer beads, a small strand of mixed old leftover beads and a modern strand of beads featuring a new bead I call the "Mirror Ball".

Here is some research I found on my beads, I found the sources very interesting and have provided links to the most interesting ones.:

CHEVRONS are probably the best known, oldest and most interesting historic trade bead. Often called ‘star’ beads or ‘chevrons’ by Spanish traders, these artifacts are quintessential fur trade relics - but yet they are rarely found in Canada and North US. They were traded here, but very early in the game.
Chevrons were traded with African tribes for slaves and ivory, and Native Americans, primarily in southwest Arizona. Blue and red chevrons are listed among the supplies of Coronado and his conquistadors in the year 1540 in what is today Arizona. These are prized beads - but they are rarely found in the fur belt. Some authors believe they were bought and traded by the Hudson's Bay Company early in the history of that venerated company - before glass making became common in England. There's also an interesting story which details how the exact recipe and process for making Chevrons (all fifteen steps) was one of the great industrial secrets to escape the Republic of Venice when several highly skilled glassblowers escaped from the Island of Murano to migrate north to Germany in the early 1600’s. The mills of Bohemia made the manufacture of these complicated beads more practical as a single necklace required hours of grinding – remember the beads start life as long sticks of glass that are broken into bits and ground into small spherical shapes.

Chevron Beads were traded throughout the world from the late 15th century. Christopher Columbus is said to have traded Chevrons when discovering the New World. They were introduced into Africa by Dutch merchants. The first specimens were created by glass bead makers in Venice and Murano Italy. Chevrons were originally called Rosetta beads, or star beads. The word Rosetta first appears in the inventory of the Barovier Glass works in Murano in 1496.

Massive Venetian Chevron  -  Circa 1480 1580 - Rediscovered in the Congo1983. Measures 7.7 cms x  5 cms. Weight: 288 gms.

Chevron beads were traditionally made up of red, blue and white layers. A smaller number of chevron beads were produced in green, black and yellow. (above) Chevrons were 'drawn beads', made from glass 'canes' created in specifically constructed star mould. Star moulds are known to have had between 5 and 18 points. Typically, four to seven layers of different coloured glass was added to the mould, conforming to the star mould. Metal plates were affixed to the hot glass which was then 'drawn' into a long rod called 'canes', by pulling from either in opposite directions. A bubble which had been blown into the centre of the original molten ball of glass formed the hole in the cane and beads perforation. The diameter of the cane or beads was determined by how thin the glass was drawn out. The cooled cane was cut into bead sizes, revealing a star pattern at either cut section. Each end was then ground or faceted to enhance and display the star chevron pattern. Star beads with flat ends are more correctly known as 'Rosetta star beads'.

The first known Chevrons typically had seven layers and six facets. Over time and through use, an inner layer would sometimes wear away. By the beginning of the 20th century, four and six layer chevron beads appeared on various bead sample cards. Small quantities of chevron beads continue to be made in Venice today.

Above, a selection of very large chevrons collected in Shaba Zaire (Conge DRC) during the most part of the 1990's. At the top is the largest 7 layered example we found. The centre necklace is made up entirely of seven layered Chevrons, while the outer two examples date to early 20th century trade. These beads were re-discovered individually. They would have entered the remote region through river sources, leading up from the mouth of the Congo River. Imagine the history they have seen!

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