Encyclopedia Article


Typically a small, often rounded object with a hole bored through the center through which a length of fiber, sinew, or gut can be threaded. Beads are formed from stone, bone, seeds, animal quills, and petrified wood as well as more exotic materials such as semi-precious stones, metals, clay, shells, and glass. A variety of beads were used as items of trade among many traditional societies, as they have been used in the production of jewelry and decorated clothing items.

Many Native American tribes in the United States have their distinctive connections to beads and beading. The beading of clothing, baskets, and ceremonial costumes and headdresses is held as a sacred tradition in many tribal communities. Much of this handiwork is very labor-intensive and learning to bead is an important and cherished tradition. Inside and outside tribal communities, beadwork is often viewed as art.

Bead can also refer to the little bead-sized bump used to help sight, or aim, a firing arm. The bead is typically found at the firing end of a gun or rifle barrel.

Photo Credit: 

"Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) turquoise and argillite beads, circa 1020-1140 CE , Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico, February 20, 2006" by Urban~commonswiki is licensed under Public Domain.

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