Recycling is not a new idea. People have been recycling and reusing things, especially when they are considered valuable, for a long time. The earliest example of a bead may be a large one of chrysocolla (a soft green stone) found in Shanidar Cave, Iraq. It had been broken at both ends through wear and was then reground so that it looked almost new to be buried with a small child.
The halves of broken amber beads are sometimes rejoined with silver wire in Western Africa. A long onyx bead was split down its length and someone in the Philippines took the half, drilled it sideways and made a new bead from it.
Here is a whole strand of broken Venetian "red feather" glass beads that have been recycled in an interesting way. There are many such examples.
Here we consider materials used for beads that are essentially recycled. One of the most popular of these as a home craft is paper. A short history and some patterns are here and there is also a gallery of some interesting paper beads.
Often beads are made from things that were not necessarily designed to become beads. There are three levels of this:
1. Manufactured objects not intended to be beads, but used that way by importing people. These include bullet cases, goblet stems, keys, etc.
2. Manufactured objects sold to importing people knowing that they will be used as raw material for beads and other things. Examples: many trade items to Africa, including iron bars and bronze manillas, and even to this day the Maria Theresa thaler (same page), a silver coin. Of course, coins are often made into beads or pendants in many countries.
3. Manufactured goods meant as beads, but altered to suite local tastes or for other reasons.
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