Bead Dictionary: Ashanti Gold

The Ashanti people, also called Asante, are members of the Akan group who have long ruled Ghana and parts of neighboring countries in West Africa. Gold was extremely important, and prolifically used, in Ashanti culture. Early European explorers reported extensive use of gold: as thread in textiles; hammered and applied to furniture; forged and cast into ornaments of all kinds.

Lost-wax cast beads from Ghana. Robert K. Liu

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Bead Dictionary: Fluorite

Fluorite, also known as Fluorspar, gets its name from the Latin for “flow” or “flux”; fluorite is used as a flux in glassmaking and other processes. It in turn gives its name to fluorescence, or luminescence under ultraviolet irradiation, a phenomenon first observed in this mineral.

Fluorite dimes. Cas Webber

The chameleon of gemstones, fluorite covers the color spectrum, from clear to yellow and green, to blue and purple, to almost black — but occurs mainly in greens and purples with color zoning. It can be confused with many gemstones, and its color can be changed by radiation. Translucent to transparent, crystalline fluorite has perfect cleavage and takes a high polish.  It is found mostly in Germany, England, and the US.

Among fluorite’s purported healing properties is the power to cure insomnia. It is also thought to focus divergent energies, promote concentration, and develop the intellect.

Our “Bead Dictionary” series draws from the meticulously curated collection of the same name, assembled on our website by Joyce Diamanti.

Bead Dictionary: Ethiopian (Coptic) Cross

Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant. Cas Webber

Ethiopian Coptic cross pendant.
Cas Webber

The Coptic Church, traditionally founded by St. Mark in Egypt, was long persecuted after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century. The Coptic community in Ethiopia has remained stronger than in Egypt and produces a variety of ornaments that, when introduced to the west by African bead traders, became popular with collectors and designers.

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Bead Dictionary: Ancient Afghan Hardstone Beads

Please note: beautiful ancient beads like the ones below will be available for viewing and purchase at our Afghan Treasures Trunk Show this weekend!

In the 20th century, beautiful ancient stone beads from Afghanistan became available to collectors. These included materials that were regarded as precious in antiquity—lapis lazuli and hardstones, such as agates and rock crystals—as well as stones or minerals that were attractive for their patterns or grains, which were enhanced by ancient lapidaries.


Strand of ancient hardstone beads from Afghanistan, modern stringing; note the beauty of the stone patterns as revealed by their makers. Robert K. Liu

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Bead Dictionary: Chrysoprase

Australian chrysoprase beads by Cas Webber

A medieval poet claimed that chrysoprase held under the tongue of a condemned thief would enable him to escape execution, presumably by rendering him invisible. Holding a quite different view, a theologian associated chrysoprase with Christ’s sternness toward sinners. Since antiquity, however, this bright green stone has commonly been thought to be lucky and bring success. On his eastern campaigns, Alexander the Great carried a “prase” in his belt as a victory talisman.

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