Vintage Millefiori Beads vs. Modern Millefiori Beads

Millefiori beads are beads that have a floral pattern imprinted on them. In vintage beads, this done using a cane, or murrine, and it means all such beads are unique. All millefiori beads are made from glass and they are longer than the normal bead. Archaeological findings have shown that millefiori beads were used as early as the 7th and 8th century by Anglo-Saxons and others. However, vintage millefiori beads are those millefiori beads that were used from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s because before the mid 1800s, the technical knowledge of making the beads had been lost.

Differences between Vintage Millefiori Beads and Modern Millefiori Beads

There are several differences between vintage millefiori beads and modern millefiori beads. Vintage millefiori beads were mostly made by Venetians, but modern millefiori beads are made in Venice and several other places.

Modern millefiori beads are usually flawless, but vintage millefiori beads are not flawless because they have been used for many years.

Vintage millefiori beads are more expensive than modern millefiori beads. This is because the vintage beads are in short supply and the demand is high. The demand is fueled by collectors and people who buy them for sentimental value such as the descendants of slaves. The demand for vintage millefiori beads is so high that the annual appreciation in price is 10%.

All vintage millefiori beads were handmade. Although some artisans still practice the ancient techniques of making millefiori beads, most of the millefiori beads today are made through mass-production. Mass production leads to beads with more intense colors, faster production process, low production cost, and beads with the same pattern.

Production of Vintage Millefiori Beads

All vintage millefiori beads have been made the same way – the process used had been used since 16th century. A steel pole about 1.5 meters long was used to hold a small globule of molten glass and the glass was dipped in different pots containing molten glass of different colors. The mass was squeezed into molds made from a cane called murrine to give the floral pattern. The glass was dipped in transparent glass to give it a cylindrical shape and to make it smoother. With another pole, the sphere produced was placed at the end of another steel pole of about 1.5 meters and the sphere was gently pulled into a rod of the desired dimensions. The rod was cut into pieces, thus giving beads. The beads were placed into frames to give the required design. After this, the beads were treated in a kiln and annealing was done to strengthen the beads.

The artisans who worked to make vintage millefiori beads required a lot of patience, experience and skills and they spent many years as apprentices.

History of Vintage Millefiori Beads

What are today vintage millefiori beads were commissioned by Europeans from different countries for trade with Africans, mostly West Africans. The European colonizers and traders used them as gifts, as payment for services rendered, in exchange for goods such as gold, rhinoceros horns, and ivory, and in exchange for slaves.

The Europeans knew Africans loved beautiful things and took advantage of the fact that Africans practiced batter trade. The Africans had used beads made from different materials before the Europeans brought their beads and so they were very receptive to the beads.

The use of millefiori beads, also called trade beads, to trade with Africans came to an end when Africa was partitioned and colonized and the Africans needed money to trade.

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