What to do with that box of beads?
It depends what kinds of beads you have! Big? Small?
In the early days the 11th to 13th
centuries - small seed beads were more or less used
on headgear and on lush embroidery pieces. Usually the embroidery
was religious in nature (mitres, vestments, altar cloths)
until the LATE 1700's when it became a ladylike pursuit.
Oftimes, it was on clothes, gloves,
and even shoes of kings for state and official functions.
The usual kinds of beads used were coral (dark red), pearl
both freshwater and natural round sea ones but always small
as far size. Most European countries had a natural supply
of freshwater pearls from their rivers and those that didn't
traded them with the ones that did. From what I have seen
they were pretty prevalent as far as ecclesiastical garments.
Interestingly enough, the embroidery
I have seen is almost -exclusively- German in the 11th-12th
centuries. It was called Opus Tuetonicum from what I can
find, and was meant to act as a sort of "faux" or pauper
version of prized Byzantine enamels. A piece in 1200 Spain,
but it is a multi-media hat with both armorial plates and
beaded armorial charges, pearls and coral beads.
Black, green, violet purple, red,
scarlet, several shades of green and blue and BRIGHT sunflower
yellow (Believe it or not) are all period colors! Beads
found were both clear and opaque, I have not found any signs
of silver lined or Rochailles thus far, I hear they were
making this variety of bead in the larger trade styles,
also called foil lined. I just haven't seen them in period
in a seed size. Their seed beads seem to be slightly different
than our current plain seed bead, more like tiny bugles
- looking very much like broken canes or tubes of glass
versus the rounded smoothed ones we have today. But, I have
found the latter kind more frequently than not. If you have
any check 3 cut-seed beads, just like those....
Other than coral and pearls and
the occasional early period ruby or emerald. I haven't seen
much use of "gemstone beads" like tiny lapis, or hematite,
as many scadians do, they used glass, that was expensive
enough as it was I'm sure.
Besides clerical clothing, I find
seed beads most commonly in paintings on the heads or ladies
- on hats, headgear, filets, padded rolls until the late1400's.
In the Elizabethan era it was mainly
pearls used on costumes to stud patterns of fabric - not
seeds.One of my biggest pet peeves is Eliz garb with seed
beads all over it. They wouldn't have done it, it would
have been (and is) too understated, and small. Eliz garb
is about extravagance and dripping in excess. Something
as small as a seed bead would have been lost on the big
intricate fabric designs they had available to them.
I find in garb to approach period
look, bigger is better. They used wide trims, in bold colors
and rich fabrics, big patterns, big pearls. Big big big.
As far a necklaces, it is usually
larger beads until the Burgundian era when they started
making big gaudy wide collars of fine seed beads, sometimes
using pearls and other beads.
If you want to do real period stuff
I suggest headgear or embroidery. Believe it or not embroidery
is sturdy and very easy! Read how next!