Vintage Beads Inspire New Shaped Beads

A few weeks ago, I delved into my bead stash to find some Silky beads so I could stitch out a few units of a pattern I was editing. After digging for longer than I care to admit, I began to ponder my dragon’s lair of vintage beads, remembering that it included some two-holed beads that might work in place of the Silky beads. What I found was a stunning surprise.

Silky & Vintage diamond-shaped beads

Silky bead on the left, vintage 2-hole diamond-shaped bead on the right.

The blue bead is vintage and slightly larger than a modern Silky (pictured on the left), with the same hole alignment and locations. It was close enough that I used it to check the thread paths in a pattern without creating poor tension. The raised center design of both beads is very, very similar.

Vintage 2-hole dome beads

Dome and pyramid shaped 2-holed beads.

This group is comprised of 2-holed beads ranging from 8–12mm in size. The bases of the smaller beads are plastic, the large circular beads and the tops of the smaller beads are faceted pressed glass.

Vintage multi-hole bead shapes

2-hole bars, lentils, 3-hole bars, diamonds and half-circles.

Modern multi-hole beads come in a fascinating and delicious array of colors. Their vintage counterparts came in colors that make it obvious that they’re vintage. The half-circles are uncannily similar to half moon beads, only much thinner and more delicate. I’m incredibly curious about the intended use of the light blue bars with 3 holes (shown top and side view). The circular beads are 6mm in diameter, exactly like modern 2- and 4-hole lentil beads.

Strands of vintage jet 2-hole beads

Marquis, teardrop, and a shape I call lopsided asterisk.

Jet beads were popular and widely available judging by my collection. As you can see, a few sets still sport the thread they were strung on sometime between 1930-1940. The large marquis are 7x16mm, the teardrops are 8x12mm, and the lopsided asterisks are 4x6mm.

Jet vintage 2-hole beads

A jet pyramid, large lopsided asterisk, lopsided diamond, feather and a small marquis, all with 2 holes.

Of all the beads, these are the least refined in terms of the quality of the finished bead. The edges are rough and a bit uneven. The thread holding the strands together had turned to dust in the plastic box where these are stored. Shape-wise, these are the most unusual and asymmetrical.

Most of the beads pictured were made between 1925 and 1940 in Germany and Eastern Europe. All of the jet beads are from Germany, where most manufacturing facilities were either closed or destroyed during World War II. I find it exciting that these beads are being recreated in modern colors and incarnations instead of being lost to the perils of history.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take a second look at shaped beads. If you need to find the right project, check our 35% off patterns sale before midnight tonight. There are plenty of projects to choose from, including shaped beads, crystals, pearls, and seed bead designs to inspire your next jewelry creation!

BarbS SignatureSM

Barb Switzer
Associate Editor

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