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Perle Drawn beads

In the manufacture of drawn beads, many identical beads can be made at once. While the process is complex, and cannot be done alone, it is a way of mass‑producing beads that was perfected by the artisans centuries before mechanisation. In those days, a large hollow globe of molten glass was created, and then drawn out into a long thin tube up to 300 metres long. One person manipulated the hollow globe, while the other took one end of the globe and moved away drawing out a tube of glass as one might draw out a thread of toffee. The globe may have been

1) composed of several different colored layers for layered beads;

2) adorned with rods or lumps of colored glass to form stripes;

3) marvered to create a specific shape, as for chevrons;

4) twisted during the drawing out process to produce spirals.


The tube was laid down to cool, and then broken into manageable sections, sorted according to their diameter and subsequently cut into bead lengths. The beads were either left unaltered with sharp edges (known as gaggle beads) or their broken ends were rounded. Rounding was accomplished by a process known as tumbling: the beads were placed in a n or drum with other materials and heated as the mixture was stirred or tated. The heat and agitation rounded the broken ends while the various materials kept the beads from sticking together and prevented their perforations from collapsing. The resultant beads ranged from being unaltered tube fragments to almost perfect spheroids, depending the length of time they were tumbled (Karklins 1985:88).

Drawn beads have certain characteristics due to their method of manufacture. Bubbles in the glass and striations on the surface, if present,  oriented parallel to the axis. The perforation is parallel sided and usually s a smooth surface. The decoration on a drawn bead runs parallel to the section in which bead was drawn: a drawn bead cannot have bands or knots unless they were applied after the bead was initially made. The stripes uniform throughout the bead, and the lines of very even thickness. This contrasts with the fines in wound or powder glass beads.


There are different classifications of drawn beads depending on the number and shape of the different layers of glass. Perhaps the most precious drawn bead is the chevron bead, known as powa in Krobo. This is a multi‑layered, drawn bead in which many of the layers e star‑shaped, and the typical colors are white, red and blue. Another drawn bead is the koli bead, and the parallel lines can often be seen koli beads because they are reheated, and in that process the air bubbles the glass burst (see bead glossary). Further information about chevron beads can be found in Picard and Picard (1986 and 1993).


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