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The Bead Reference Room

The following are links to sites rich in information about researching beads in different fields.

Google is the best search engine in the world, but after several tries we have not been able to get the box to work here. Here are some more links scouted out by Deborah Zinn.

Bead Materials:

Gems and Minerals. We are lucky here. There are at least two excellent sources.

You might want to review the
Mohs hardness scale before you check them out.

This one is the most complete, helping you identify minerals by color, hardness, streak and other properties.

This one has fewer minerals, but concentrates on semiprecious and precious stones.
The listing for each mineral is extremely rich and informative. It also allows you to search minerals by hardness, color, etc.

Don't rely on this page for a lot of hard, historical facts (coral use hardly started with the Romans), but it is interesting by presenting an Indian view of stones, including religious and healing associations.

Plants as Beads

The best general introduction, very rich in content is this section of Wayne's World.

The use of plants as beads is part of the study of

ethnobotany, which covers many other plant uses, including edible plants, poisonous ones, etc. In this list, scroll down a few screens to get to the "ethnobotany" section.


The study of shells is conchology, but most scientists now call their study malacology, or the study of the entire animal. The field uses a language of its own, so this glossary is very helpful.

Two general sites are useful. A list of links to sites dealing with malacology is here.

A great list dealing specifically with
gastropods (snails) is here; this also takes you to other molluscan lists.

This is an excellent visual identification for shells along North American shores (one page lacks names).

Precious natural materials


This link provides a lot of good material on amber as well as many good links to other informative pages.


Haven't found a good general source. This page discusses Whitby (England) jet. Hard to read, but interesting.


One long page, but very informative. The culturing of pearls is detailed here. This is another good site on culturing pearls in Mexico, offered in Spanish as well as English.


For the identification of ivory, this page is excellent.

Here was a surprise to me:
the ivory industry in Ivoryton and Deep River, Connecticut USA.

Robert I, Spragg Sr. has a site devoted to wood-turning in which he has pages on ivory (including scrimshaw), lace bobbins and Tagua (vegetable ivory). Not academic, but some interesting things.


I have yet to find a good general guide to identifying plastics, particularly those used for beads. Here is a list of the code numbers of plastics for recycling (polystyrene #6 is one of the most important bead plastics).

Base Metals

A quick way to distinguish between several of the most common base metals.


This link will help you in conservation practices of silver, lacquer, feathers and other materials.


Though not really adequate for beads, this list of links may prove useful.

Academic Studies

Historians are most interested in primary sources, or documents written by an eyewitness or someone near a particular event. Secondary sources are documents (like history books) that explain events while using the primary sources.

One of the most useful overall sources is the Internet History Sourcebooks Project, edited by

Paul Halsall. An example of what is done here is the Medieval Sourcebook. Note the links at the top of the page to other sourcebooks, including Ancient History, Modern History, Byzantine History, Africa, India, East Asia, Gay/Lesbian/Transexual Studies, Women's Studies, Science, etc.

Halsall also has help pages for students. These have many useful links, including writing and citation guides, further links and discussion groups. He makes the point that while the Internet is good for bibliographic searches, serious research still needs to be done in libraries. That is correct, but the Internet is getting better all the time.

Another source for classical and medieval literature is here.

A source for writings on the early voyages of discovery (mostly the Americas), including archaeological finds and secondary sources is here.

A source for early American history, including older works that would have been known by early Americans, is here.

Archaeologists look at the past differently than historians. Instead of dealing with written records, they deal with tangible objects that tell us something about what happened in the past. These objects may be artifacts (things people made), ecofacts (human changes to the environment) or organic remains (food, pollen, bones).

There are a number of archaeological links on the net. I recommend these two to begin with. Both can be searched by region, interest area and resources.

Archnet is probably the best, but Archaeology on the Net is also good.

Depending upon where you live, archaeology is subsumed under the term anthropology. Often these terms are interchangeable.

Anthropology Resources on the Internet is another good index site.

To keep abreast of new developments, bookmark Anthropology in the News.
This labor of love is updated nearly every week.


Search the database of the

US Patent Office for patents going back some time.


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