Sunday, April 3, 2016


Modern beads given out to be used as tokens for the SCA. Lots of fun with dots. Based off of modern beads I found while looking on places like etsy.

Modern Necklace

Anglo Saxon Sword/Amulet Beads

Below are large Anglo Saxon sword (and amulet) beads that I gave away at Mudthaw. These are all likely larger than a quarter (20-25 mm across). And even then they are smaller than the period examples. Below is some really quick research on sword beads, including links to where I got the info for the designs.

  • In Anglo Saxon graves some large disc beads are found that are "distinguishable from the beads of normal size" found in graves. (Evison 2008)
  • Female Gaves:(Evison 2008)
    • "When found with other beads at the neck of a female grave, it is assumed that the function was the same as that of other beads, i.e. decoration with possible magical properties."
    • "If found at the left hip in a container with other objects, it is possible that it was functional as a spindle whorl."
  • Male Graves: (Evison 2008).When found "in connection with a sword it may  be regarded as a sword bead"
    • "to be used with the 'peace strings' (note: what does this mean, is it like peace tying a sword at the Ren. faire?)
    • "or perhaps it was believed to have healing properties"
    • swords "occurred in only a small percentage of male graves"  -meaning the number of sword beads found in small
  • The beads are most of, and first, made of glass ) but can also be made form other materials, such as amber, bone, crystal  (Evison 2008, Evison 1967)
  • The beads are "almost always found at a distance of about six inches from the pommel, they almost always occur singly, and are never interlinked (Evison 1967).
  • "The beads appear to be functionless as far as the working of the sword is concerned. But "a utilitarian purpose cannot be ruled out" as the beads were "found close to the sword-blade, a few inches below the grip." Because "this is the usual position for the attachment of a strap to the scabbard" it is possible "that a beads was sometimes used for the passage of a strap so that [the sword] could be drawn up tightly and firmly against the scabbard." Evison 1967).
  • "May have magical significance in view of the fact that some of the materials of which they were made are knows to have been widely valued for their magical prop (Evison 1967).
  • "it is not known precisely how these beads were attached to the sword." One bead was found "with a leather thong still attached and passing under the top of the scabbard. A metal scabbard mouth fitting is the obvious place for fixing it, and a number of such mounts are provided with a small buckle, projecting plate, or a perforated lug on the lower edge at the back....the fact that the perforation was on the lower side of the mount.... is in favor of it being intended for something suspended, such as a bead" (Evison 1967).

 The catalog at the end of Evison 1967 lists some of the following types of sword beads beads found in English graves:
  • Green glass bead, diam 1 1/4 in.
  • Very dark olive-green translucent glass disc bead, opaque yellow zigzag trail, diam 2.8cm.
  • Amber disc, one with a diam. of 2.2 cm, another measuring 2.8 found in a different grave.
  • Yellow glass bead (no measurements given)
  • Cylindrical glass bead, with red, yellow and green reticella threads, diam 2.8cm
  • Large glass bead, disc with zigzag trail in sunflower estrangement (no colors or measurements given)
  • Bluish-green glass disk with red trails cable-fashion on circumfrence (no measurements given)
  • Translucent mid-green glass disc, with white zigzag trails, diam 3.5 cm
  • Black glass bead, one side flat, the other convex, white trails in five-petal shape, diam 4.3cm
  • Oval black glass bead, light-blue crossing trails and red dots, diam 2.5cm

 Tillerman beads has a nice list of amulet and sword beads, with grave citations that they reproduce. I copied a bunch of their designs for the beads pictures above, using one or two designs from the source cited above.

This may be a resource to look into later to learn more about the social meaning of such things in Anglo-Saxon society: Meaney, A. (1981). Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones, British Archaeological Reports, 96.

Evison 2008: 
Evison 1967: (Mostly from pages 2-4 of this long document, with a catalog list of sword beads on pages 81-84, and drawings of beads in figure 2-p. 105, figure 3-p. 106)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Viking Beads

Beads given to be part of a viking beaded necklace.

Silver Crescent Necklace

Like the necklace I made for Ysmay upon stepping down as Bhakail's A&S champion, this chain is based on a Roman chain, the design for which I learned at Pennsic during a class. A link to a museum photo of a Roman wire wrapped chain can be found here. 

Silver Wheel Award Medalion

Silver Wheel Award Medallion

Friday, February 12, 2016

Notes for a class

Below are some notes that I will use as a quick introduction to 2 hour hands on demo/workshop.

·        The first beads were made 80-100,000 years ago. They were made of simple natural materials, such as shells, seeds, or bone.
·        However, early humans did know what glass was, as it can be formed naturally when its basic raw materials are exposed to great heat, through volcanic activity or lighting strikes on beaches. Early humans used obsidian (volcanic glass) to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Glassy slags are also formed in cremation fires, and in furnaces and kilns when metals or ceramics are being fired.
·        Man  made glass and glass beads developed around 3,000 BCE in Mesopotamia, later spreading to Egypt. The development of the bellows during that time perhaps enabled glass technology, which requires high heat.
·        Ancient glass has the same basic components as does one of the most popular types of glass used by bead makers today, silica, soda (a flux to lower the melting point of silica), and lime (calcium to harden the glass).
o   [silica melts at 3,092 F. [1,700 C.] adding flux allows glass to melt at a significantly lower temperature, about 2,372 F. [1,300 C.]
·        Glass made from these ingredients will naturally be slightly colored (often a light green) due to metal impurities in the sand 
·        Over time, people started to experiment with adding metals (such as Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Tin, and others) to glass to purposefully create color.

Bead may seem like pretty, but inconsequential items. However, that could not be further from the truth. 
Throughout history beads have been traded far and wide, used as religious or spiritual talismans to protect the wearer, and served as symbolic indicators of social rank.  
Like all objects of adornment, beads have a significance that is unspoken, but very real, and which could be read by the people who wore them.

Glass beads can be made in many ways, but the method we will be demonstrating is called Winding. As you will see shortly, this method involves the use of a metal rod, called a mandrel today, around which the glass is "wound" 
What we are teaching you is called Flameworking, the use of a gas powered torch to melt the glass that is used to create beads. 
 It evolved from Lampworking, which began in Venice during the late middle ages (15th c). Lampworking uses a blowpipe to force air into the flame from an oil lamp to make beads. The blow pipe would increase the heat of the flame enough to melt the glass. 
In the early middle ages, glass beads were made either over an open hearth, or in a wood fueled furnace. 

·        There are many cultures and time periods to choose from if you are interested in making historic beads.
·        A few cultures whose glass beads I have researched and made are: Phoenician, Roman, Anglo-Saxons, Early Irish, Merovingian, and Scandinavian. I have also done a bit of research on Islamic glass beads (a very generic term for beads made in the middle east from  600-1400 b.c.e).
·        I have a book which has pictures of beads from these different cultures.