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The Hole of a Bead -- Not Just a Bit of Nothing

The hole of a bead, including the opening (aperture) and the drilled area (bore) is important when studying or working with beads. For one thing, it defines the bead.

If the hole is off-center, the bead will be a pendant (left). If it goes through the long side, the bead is a toggle (right). Both beads are Czech. The pendant is said to be a wedding bead in Mali, but I have seen no evidence. The toggle imitates some West African powder-glass beads.

It can offer clues as to the material from which the bead is made.
If the bore is perfectly straight, the bead is probably made around the hole.
If the bore has a joint, the bead was drilled.

Glass beads (left) have straight holes. Stone beads (right) have a joint (far right). This is also true for other materials, but these are the two most commonly confused.

Stone beads have joints because they are usually drilled from two sides (left). If not, the far side will break through, leaving a large cavity at one end (right).

Looking carefully at the aperture one can tell how the bead was drilled.

This bead was drilled free-hand. The aperture is wobbly and the bore is not concentric to the aperture. No machine (such as a bow drill) was used.

This bead was drilled with a drill, either operated by a bow or a pump or some other way. The aperture is round and the bore concentric to it.

This bead was not drilled with a diamond-tipped drill, which would leave two straight bores. The drill was either a pointed stone tool or a piece of wood. The drilling and the abrasive used with the wood reduce its diameter over time.

 Before drilling, another operation, dimpling, takes place. See it here.


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