Faceted Beads

Another way a manufacturer can change the general shape of the bead is through faceting. Faceted beads are beads with many flattened edges done in such a way to make it look like a cut gemstone. Faceted beads can be any material, theoretically, but they tend to be made of either amber, stone (including gemstones), or glass.

The term ‘faceted’ basically means that the bead has many flattened edges, as if the corners have been cut off. But faceting can take any number of forms, depending on the bead.

Amber square faceted bead

Amber square faceted bead

Sometimes it might mean the bead had been square or rectangular, but the corners were cut off to make a faceted, but still fairly square bead.

Round, faceted bead from Scotland

Round, faceted bead from Scotland

Other times it can be a round, fairly circular bead that has been flattened around the perforation to make almost a faceted bicone.

Faceted glass bead made to look like a gemstone

Faceted glass bead made to look like a gemstone

Still others might be round beads with various parts flattened or cut in diamond-shaped patterns to look like cut gemstones.

Interestingly, I’ve recently seen some of these style beads being made from recycled glass, like broken bottles and things. They look exactly like the blue bead above. The faceting for those seems a bit more like the only option for a shape rather than an active choice. And since that’s the case today, I wonder if it were similar in the past. Admittedly, though, the one above seems more out of choice than necessity.

Square-shaped faceted bead from Scotland.

Square-shaped faceted bead from Scotland.

But, there are certainly many faceted beads that are clearly an active choice on the part of the manufacturer. For glass beads, these can be molded or they can be drawn or wound or folded and then pressed to created the facets. For stone beads (including gemstones), they are generally cut and polished or ground and polished. Amber beads are faceted in much the same way as stone.

I tend to associate faceted beads with later periods than I usually study or areas I don’t usually study. They tend to be medieval or later, and I have a tendency to associate them with continental Europe or with the Middle East. That doesn’t mean those associations are correct, but I certainly don’t generally see faceted beads much in other contexts.

The only exception would be the Romans or areas with potentially Roman connections. Those tend to be the first style I described, square or rectangular beads with the corners cut off.

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About Heather Christie

Heather is an archaeologist, photographer, and writer whose research focuses on beads and bead trade, particularly in a maritime sense. She's currently working working on a PhD in Digital Design (focusing on heritage visualisation) at the Glasgow School of Art.
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4 Responses to Faceted Beads

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #11 | Doug's Archaeology

  2. Pingback: Monochrome Beads | Stringing the Past

  3. JoEllen Hauer says:

    Hello, Wondering where is that black faceted bead from? It looks just like 2 we found on an archaeological site in Nevada.

    • Hi JoEllen! That particular bead is from a site in Scotland, but the type is typical of the Victorian period, when black faceted beads became quite popular as a result of the queen wearing them. The beads were often made in the Netherlands, Venice, or Czechoslovakia. I’ve seen a number referenced in North American sites, particularly during the later half of the 19th century!

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