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Seed Bead Sizes

The size of seed beads is loosely based on the length of the original rod of glass that the beads are cut from. For example, a size 11 seed bead originated from a rod that was cut 11 times for ever...
Fair Trade Beads, a 300-year Old Concept PDF  | Print |  E-mail


300 years ago, women in a small African county called Mauritania wanted to replicate the intricate designs of hand crafted glass beads made in Italy and often traded in the African countries. What they came up with has been called the Kiffa bead, a work of art so brilliant in its use of color and intricate designs that it can scarcely be imitated today.
The concept of ‘fair trade,’ paying living wages for hand-crafted and often old-world techniques in developing countries, is not a new concept. Bead makers have been making a handsome living creating works of art, either in the bead itself or in the exotic and delicate jewelry fashioned from the beads. And they’ve been doing so for hundreds of years. Kiffa beads are one example. They are made by casting crushed and powdered glass in sand casts and then placed in to fire to create a glass bead. The patterns are often striking. The tradition of African bead making is certainly making a comeback, and the demand for Kiffa beads, which often fetch a very high price, is typically quite high.
Another exotic type of bead that demand fair trade wages are actually just purchased in the finished product, the Ni’ihau shell jewelry, created from the puka shell of a tiny marine crustacean. The shells are harvested when they wash up on the beaches of the tiny island of Ni’ihau. Islanders collect the shells and separate them by the hues of the shell: white, yellow, blue and pink. Then they make intricate and delicate leis out of them, which cost upwards of $5,000.00 and are often collected as works of art.
Other beads that could be considered fair trade include various bone beads, used and made throughout the words and still manufactured in some regions—such as remote areas of China—as they’ve been making them for hundreds of years. Bone beads today can still fetch a hefty price, especially those with very precise and detailed carvings.
Methods of using beads to make jewelry have also been around for many years, and many cultures that excel in certain types very intricate techniques. Native American beadwork, using seed beads to create an abstract or portrait-like work of art, has been in practice for at least 200 hundred years, ever since European traders first brought seed beads to the Americas. Some contemporary pieces are so valuable they end up on display in museums and fetch prices into the thousands.
Bead making is an old, old tradition, and though many types of beads—like the glass beads pouring out of India and China—are so common as to be worth very little, you can still find very exotic and handmade works of art to hang around your neck. The best part is, many of these items are made by artisan using methods that have been handed down for generations, and—even more to the point—those artisans are often being paid what they’re worth.
To find a huge selection of fair trade beads, including hand carved bone beads, hand carved wood beads, or seed beads, shop online at Western Traders.