Long before gemstones were faceted or pearls were cultured, ancient glass beads ranked on a par with the most precious gems. Beads of all kinds have been traded, collected, and treasured throughout human history. Beads are one of the oldest forms of art. They have been used for tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thousands) of years. A tenth century Arab once said that the Vikings would "go to any length to get hold of colored beads". Certainly colored beads of flame worked glass from Birka, native amber and jet, carnelian and silver imported from India and Iran via Islamic and traders, rock crystal, garnet, amethyst, gold, and bronze were other types of beads highly prized by people from the ancient world. The word bead comes from the Anglo Saxon words bidden (to pray) and bede (prayer.) Collecting ancient glass beads is a field of growing popular interest. Glassmaking originated in the Syro-Palestine area around the third millennium BC and was developed in Egypt in 1330 BC. The Phoenicians became the greatest glassmakers and exporters of the ancient world. Chemistry for the coloration of glass was already in place during the reign of Tutankhamun in Egypt (circa 1330 B.C.), and colored glass was heavily exploited for furniture and architectural inlay for several centuries thereafter. Although the Romans had nothing to do with the invention of glass, during the first century A.D. they did play a primary role in the industrialization of the glassmaking process in the Mediterranean world. The glass seed beads, sometimes referred to as trade beads, played an important, if not somewhat of an ignominious role in the colonization of North America. Columbus' first trade with the people of the Americas was done with the use of red hats and string beads to gain the confidence and admiration of the indigenous people. October 12, 1492, Columbus recorded in his logbook that the natives of San Salvador Island were given red caps and glass beads. This is the earliest written record of glass beads in the Americas. With the exploration and settlement of the New World, the demand for beads grew higher and higher. Explorers, traders and missionaries had great use for beads as a unit of exchange with the people of the New World, and Africa. Beads are not just adornment! No, beads have been used by mankind for centuries, and not even just modern mankind. This makes them a fascinating and popular item to collect especially the ancient glass beads.
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