Fine 19th century Bohemian hand drawn, hand faceted " Russian Blues" used as high level Trade Currency in Nigeria and Cameroon.
Their nickname "Russian Blues" came into existence as they were brought into the Alaskan bead trade by Russian fur traders to the west coast of the United States and Canada during the 19th Century.
These exquisitely colored and faceted beads also entered the African Trade, mainly through Nigeria and Ghana. They are identical to the versions used in North America and Canada as they came from the same factories in Bohemia (situated today in the northern part of the Czech Republic and a small part of what used to be East Germany). Bohemian factories had been making glassware, vases and cups since the 12th century.
There are two types of glass techniques from which Russian Blues were created; drawn tubes or moulded manufacture.
Russian Blues that were created from drawn tubes underwent the following process: a bubble is formed in a blob of hot molten glass. The blob is then stretched out onto the end of a metal tube, creating a hot glass tube that is then cut into smaller sections forming beads. The initial bubble becomes the hole in the bead center. Individual beads were cut from 6 to 8 sided simple or compound (two layer) tubes. Each bead then was ground by hand at different angles creating a multi-faceted effect, sometimes as sparkling as a gemstone. The number of facets and degree of quality was dependent on the skill of the glass faceting/ grinding craftsman. Some of the largest Russian Blue shapes can have as many as fifty or more facets.
Russian Blues that were created in the moulded process underwent the following procedure: thick rods of glass are heated to molten consistency and fed into a complex apparatus that stamps the glass, including a needle that pierces a hole. The beads again are rolled in hot sand to remove flashing and soften seam lines. In some of the moulded beads, the left over glass in the seams of the mold was removed by hand finishing. Pressed or molded beads are associated with lower labour costs.
Length : Approx. 32" ( Beaded Section 26")
Bead Size : 11 x 10mm
The "Russian Blue" strands offered here are in the same configuration as they were purchased in West Africa years ago.