How To Distinguish Venetian Millefiori Beads From Modern Imitations

08 Jun

From the 1500′s until the close of the 19th Century, Venetian glass-working guilds incepted myriad of ways to produce more elaborate mosaic beads for seafaring merchants. Unlike the relatively primitive mold method employed by Rosetta bead-makers up until the 15th Century, the millefiori technique involved construction of beads one rod at a time. The exact positioning of the canes was critical to the end pattern, however, this method allowed for greater symmetry and uniformity than the old Rosetta method. As such, the mosaic patterns of true Venetian Trade Beads will almost always be uniformly symmetrical.

Although India has a long and fascinating tradition of bead-making, they only began to mass produce Indian Millefiori Beads in earnest in the 1980s. These are far darker and more rustic in appearance than their Venetian counterparts owing to the relatively primitive techniques employed to make them. One sure-fire way to spot the difference between Indian and Venetian Millefiori Beads is to look at the perforation hole; Indian bead perforations are often far larger, with sharp, unfinished edges and white residue at the core.

Indonesia too has a long affiliation with bead-making. In fact, many consider the ancient “Jatim” beads produced from 900 A.D to be the earliest form of millefiori. Unfortunately these old Jatim Beads are rare and expensive, and those you find in Indonesia’s markets today will unlikely be the real thing. Indonesian replications are somewhat more difficult to distinguish from Venetian Millefiori Beads because of their excellent finish. You can usually tell them apart by comparing the glass quality and size. Indonesian beads are commonly made with transparent glass, and are usually longer and wider than Venetian originals.


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