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Cut Blues (not "Russian Beads")

First, the name. The Russians did not 1. Make this bead, 2. Bring it to Alaska (they got it from the American Fur Co. and maybe Hudson Bay) 3. Use it very much or very long. When you go to Alaska and buy them they will probably be strung up on Raphia (Raffia) palm leaves that grow in West Africa, not Alaska.

The most prized are the large, deep blue ones. They were made in Bohemia by drawing a hexagonal (also 7 and 8 sides) tube, cutting it into segments and grinding the twelve corners off.

 

 

Smaller ones (also in other colors) are not later than the large ones. Both were made from ca. 1820-90.

 

 

The Taiwanese have made an imitation, but it is tumbled. Notice the rounded edges of the facets.

 

 

A glasshouse near Guadalajara, Mexico made some on commission. They ground the tubes before they cut the beads apart. Notice the rounded part of the facet near the top.

 

A tube from Mexico, ground before being cut apart. The tubes were imported from Germany. Some were made with clear interiors to identify them as recent beads.

So, what do we call them? Several other names have been used for them as well, but I prefer "Cut Blues." They were called "Cut Beads" in the trade, but there are a lot of cut beads. Karlis Karklins has proposed "Cornerless Hexagonals," which is descriptive, though they are not all hexagonal (nor are they all blue). The Bead Study Group of the Denver Museum of Natural History has suggested "Cut Prisms."

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