Beads | Mingei International Museum
Bracelet (detail), Pier Voulkos, 1995, polymer clay
Image: Bracelet (detail), Pier Voulkos, 1995, polymer clay

Beads date to the origins of humankind. They have served as currency, conveyed social and political messages, and expressed human creativity.



1995 USA

This polymer clay bracelet showcases the instinctual talent of Pier Voulkous

This crown is beaded from top to bottom. On top of the crown sits a bead bird and below the bird is a human face. Long strands of beads are below the face.

Crown with Veil

20th Century Nigeria

These beaded crowns are revered objects in Yorubaland as the essence of sacred rulership.

Bracelet (detail), Pier Voulkos, 1995, polymer clay

Beaded Necklace

1980-90 Kenya

Each one of these 112 colorful beaded strands has a hidden meaning.

This bead strand is made of  varying size, shape, color and form. These beads have a terracotta colored base with blue ovals outlined with white encircling the bead.

Chevron Bead Strand

16th-17th century Africa

Produced in the millions and traded worldwide, these beads were highly valued and used as currency to purchase goods.

Necklace (Ainu Bead Necklace)

19th Century Japan

This highly prized necklace would have been part of an Ainu woman’s attire for formal occasions.

This purse is rectangular with fringe on the bottom.  Its color is yellow and brown, and it has a faint damask pattern..


1880s-1920s France

Hundreds of tiny steel cut beads, adorn this vintage tapestry style fringed purse.

This necklace is a mix of materials such as cotton rope, glass and silver. In the center is a silver medallion and to either side of the medallion are glass beads. Some of the glass beads are made to look like coral..

Makinak (Necklace)

20th c. Oman

This stunning yet humble necklace is part of a recent acquisition from the Carolyn Dreyer Omani Wedding Silver Collection.

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