Porcelain Beads, Fire Polish Beads, Shell Beads
|Furnace Wound Beads
Sandra J. Paluzzi
Furnace wound beads are believed to be one of the earliest forms of glass beads, dating back to 2340-2180 BC in Mesopotania and the Caucus Region (Russia).
They are made by winding hot glass around a rod (mandrell) in an open furnace. The bead is wound up in the furnace then removed from the fire where modifications, such as shaping, are made. It's then reheated, knocked off the mandrell and annealed (cooled slowly in a small chamber attached to the fire).
Furnace wound beads are still made today. They have achieved prominence in South Africa where they are made by the Bida tribe. However, the vast majority of furnace beads are made in Purdalpur, India.
The bead factories in India are small in comparison to factories in the U.S. Some of them are made of wattle walls and straw roofs. These factories house a round glass furnace made of clay with several work stations around the furnace. As many as 5 people can sit around the furnace making the beads.
Furnace wound beads are economical to make - they can be made with glass rods as short as 1/2 inch. Glass scraps can also be used. They are also quick to make relative to other glass beads, such as lampwork. For example, one person can make 5 kilograms (over 10 pounds) of furnace wound beads in an hour. It takes a lampworker the same amount of time to make 200 grams of Chinese Eye (there are 1000 grams in a kilogram). This economy in manufacture leads to an inexpensive product.
Furnace wound beads are large - the smallest bead is usually 14mm. They are made on thick metal rods (7mm) which make large holes. They are often colorful and many of them are made in a millifiori pattern. Click on the picture below to see a large variety of furnace wound bead.
Furnace wound beads are frequently used here in the U.S. for purse handles, lamp pull chains, curtain tie backs and to decorate ice buckets. Of course, like any other bead, they are also used in jewelry making where their large holes are prized by hemp and leather stringers.
References and Resources:
History of glass Beads - http://www.geocities.com/ladysveva/BeadHistory.html
History of beads in Africa: http://www.turkanacollection.com/
Beads Of The World by Peter Francis, Jr.
Beads, An Exploration of Bead Traditions Around the World by Janet Coles and Robert Budwig
Many, many thanks to Mangal, one of my favorite Indian vendors for helping me with this article. He understands this public, but anonymous recognition. While I usually divulge the names of my literary sources, I never divulge the names of my bead sources!
Register to win 25.00 Worth of Beads and Beading Supplies
Full line of
available to the public!