This colourful brooch is made of hundreds of tiny seed glass beads.  It is made by the talented craftswoman Yana Tselinsky who comes from Ramat Gan, (near Tel Aviv) in Israel.  Yana explains she started crafting when she was taught to knit at three years old.  Over the years she has added to her crafting repertoire to include silver work, crochet, beadwork, embroidery and art.  Her sources of inspiration are many and varied, “my sources of inspiration, are drawn from the rich tapestry of the world’s diverse cultures and the beauty of nature itself. My creative process is deeply influenced by a wide array of art forms, including Native Arts and Crafts from around the world, the elegance of Japanese design, the vibrancy of African artistry, and the timeless charm of Celtic craftsmanship. These global influences infuse my work with a sense of cultural richness and diversity.”  If you browse Yana’s online shop (https://www.rubylane.com/shop/yanka) where you can find a wide and imaginative range of items, it is a testament to this philosophy.   Yana shares her life with two dogs and three cats who she describes as “not just my pets but also my companions in the world of crafting. Their presence offers a sense of tranquillity and inspiration, often reflecting the harmony found in the natural world.” People often describe themselves as being either cat or dog people.  Yana sits in both camps, I on the other hand am most definitely a ‘cat person’ and my eight cat brooches compared to my two dog brooches would confirm this.

The history of beads stretches back thousands of years.  In 2021 archaeologists from the University of Arizona published their excavation findings from a dig in a cave in Western Morocco, where they had found shell beads dated from 142,000 to 150,000 years ago.

These may have been worn as earrings or on a necklace. Photo by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, courtesy of the University of Arizona.

Other shell bead finds have been in the Skhul Cave in northern Israel dating to 80,000 to 120,000 years ago.

In the 16th century merchants used coloured glass beads to trade with the native North American Indians, using them as a form of currency, beads in exchange for pelts and furs.  The native North American Indians make some of the most beautiful and intricate decorations using beads, full of spiritual meaning and symbolism.

Glass beads from Venice, or to be more exact, Murano, date back to the 1300s. By the late 1470s the Murano glass makers had started to make hollow cylindrical glass canes, which could be grouped together and then cut and ground down, this technique greatly increased production.  This technique, known as Millefiori, is still popular today.  The most famous Millefiori bead is the Rosetta bead (Chevron bead), which was invented in 1480 by Marietta Barovier, one of only two women who owned and ran a glass factory in Murano in the late 15th century.

As well as forms of decoration and jewellery beads are used for religious purposes, Roman Catholics have rosary beads, thought to have begun in 1214 when St Domonic had a vision of the Virgin Mary where she gave him a set of rosary beads. Muslims have misbaha beads to aid prayer, japamala beads are used by Hindus and Buddhists.  The Greeks have komboloi beads (worry beads) and in the Middle East owari beads are used in the board game mankala.