Timeline of Lampworked Glass Beads
By Suzanne Tate
Solar Flare Creations


The aim of this project was to recreate beads from the major periods along a timeline of bead history. In the beginning, I was considering recreating beads of several construction methods, but using the lampworking technique. For example, ceramic, amber, bone or faience (glass) beads. I have, however, at this time decided to only reproduce beads that were originally created using a wound, or lampworked technique. This has left some gaps in what is otherwise a history of glass beads, notably Venetian beads in the latter part of ‘period' times, as the majority (and most interesting) of these beads were drawn, not wound. I have worked primarily from ‘The History of Beads, from 30,000BC to the Present' by Louis Sherr Dubin for my images, but I have also utilised the CD-Rom ‘Viking Beads from Frojel Port of Trade' by Professor Dan Carlsson. My research has also included email correspondence with Julia Lobotsky, a curator from the Washington Bead Museum and various publications and websites. The design of this project is also such that it can be added to at any time, and as I uncover new material through my research I will add pieces to the timeline. In particular, I am already intending to add more Anglo Saxon beads, such as those found in ‘The Glass Beads of Anglo Saxon England AD 400-700', by Margaret Guido, which are illustrated only as pen drawings.

All of the components of this timeline were constructed by me, including Murrine cane and small spacer beads, except for the gold beads in the Phonecian necklace. While those beads are not authentic, I did feel it was important to display the beads in their original context, which was with a great deal of gold.

I will now briefly discuss each of the beads in the timeline and any relevant constructions methods etc.


Iranian imitation Agate aprox. 800BC


In ‘History of Beads…', this is displayed with all of the other imitation agate found in this region. As, however, there is possibly 550 – 1100 years between this bead and the others, I felt it warranted its own section of the timeline. It is a simple black bead with a band of ivory glass. The ivory is quite a reactive glass, which has formed the striations on the surface.


Phonecian Glass bead necklace, with Etruscan Gold. Early 6 th Century


This necklace is a series of eye beads, with a single face bead. It was made from opaque white glass, and both Egyptian and Cobalt blue. Finding suitable gold beads proved difficult. I could not justify the cost of large, real or plated, gold beads, and these were the only others I could find large enough to complement the eye beads. While there appearance is not strictly accurate, I felt that the beads looked out of context displayed alone. They are strung on fine wire, as the linen thread I wished to use would not fit through the holes of the Gold beads. Detailed face beads of various styles are common in Phonecian work. This was sculpted by applying molten glass in small amounts, and manipulation into place with a pick.


Phonecian Eye-bead. 400-200BC


This is another style of Phonecian bead. I wanted to demonstrate how advanced techniques were in this early period – such as in the sculptural face bead, and in the twisted stringer applied to this bead. I created the ‘twistie' before beginning the bead, by painting stripes on the side of a blob of glass, and then drawing and twisting the blob into a narrow ‘stringer' of twisted cane.


Chinese Warring States beads 480-220BC


This is my favourite period of bead history to recreate. The intricacies of Chinese beads from this period are amazing and I love working with dots. In this case, I have closely recreated one of the beads from the Louis Sherr Dubin book, but the others are created in the style of the period.


Celtic bead possibly from La Tene, France and wound eye bead from England . Aprox 350-100BC


There is very little evidence in the main texts I used of beads from England and France . The styles were similar to many Viking and Roman beads – lots of eye beads, raked lines etc. As this was the only suitable illustration in ‘The History of Beads' I chose to recreate them. This is an area I would like to expand, from the M.Guido book, although they would be of a later period.


Iranian imitation Agate beads from the Roman period. 250BC-300AD


Banded Agate was frequently imitated by ancient Roman bead-makers, often so well as to make it difficult to distinguish them from stone. These beads were found in Iran , the majority being created during the Roman Period.

My recreations are made from a base of white or ivory glass, with bands of dark brown or black stringer applied. The molten bead is then rolled on a marver to help gravity cause the folds and twists in the pattern. Some of them were also manipulated with a tungsten poker. Some of the examples have a transparent amber glass added for depth. The beads on the ivory, rather than white, base have the added effect of the reactions occurring between the chemicals in the glass, which often causes an ‘organic' effect.


Roman Glass bead necklace. 100BC-200AD


Transparent semi-precious stones were popular in this period, hence the use of translucent glass in these beads. As the glass of that period would probably not have been as clear and pure as our transparent colours, I have also etched the beads. I experimented with several types of glass, etched opaques and transparent, but I decided the translucent glass looked most accurate. Each of the small spacer beads, numbering over 100, were also hand made by me.


Viking beads from Frojel Port of Trade 8 th C – 12 th C and Viking Beadwith Murrine, possible form Eastern Europe. Circa 900AD


I have created the murrine cane for both the black and the blue beads. Murrine is made by created a very large version of the design on a ‘punty', then drawing the body of glass out, producing a long thin cane of the design, and reducing the image at the same time. These are just a very small sample of Viking bead designs available to reproduce. Beads are one of the most common items found in Viking graves, and seem to be class related, as they are usually found in the graves of the wealthy. Beads were created by the Vikings, but the majority were imported. They also imported components for the construction of glass beads, such as ready made murrine blocks. Beads have also been found in Viking sites that were created hundreds of years earlier, perhaps somewhere in the Roman Empire .


Islamic wound bead aprox. 800AD


This bead is created from opaque black glass with white stringer decoration. Islamic beads appear in many different shapes but frequently with lines or raked decorations.


Iranian opaque wound beads. 900-1300AD


As Islam is an all encompassing religion, including the areas of art and design, to prevent idolatry Islamic art is primarily abstract and symbolic. Beads were a status symbol, with wealthier people wearing gold and precious stones, and less wealthy folk wearing brass, copper, glass etc. The strand of beads pictured contains many different shaped beads with the same surface design. I have recreated just a few of those shapes, using opaque black glass and red and yellow stringer.


Venetian wound beads 1200-1600AD


As I explained previously, the majority of beads from this period were drawn, such as the elaborate chevron beads. Simple, single colour beads were wound, and the example here is manipulated, by pushing the sides of the hot glass with a marver, into a five sided shape.




Dubin, Louis Sherr ‘The History of beads from 30,000 BC to the Present' 1987, United Kingdom

Carlsson, Professor Dan ‘Viking beads from Frojel Port of Trade' CD-Rom 2002 http://www.arkeodok.com/

Guido, Margaret ‘The Glass beads of Anglo Saxon England AD 400-700'


And numerous webpages, links to which can be found on my webpage at solarflarecreations.com.au


ALL materials above are Copywrite protected.
Do not reproduce in any manner - full or partial - without permission from the Author!