Documenting Polychrome Beads

CRG 010So far, we’ve been talking about monochrome beads and how to document their color. But that’s not the only type of bead we find – roughly 10-15% of the beads I come across are polychrome, or have multiple colors.

If a bead has multiple colors, how do we record them all in a way that lets others know which data apply to which color?

This is probably as straightforward as you think: record the data for the color that takes up the most space. I call this Color 1. Remember to record it under a fluorescent light and backlit by an LED. Then figure out what color covers the next largest percentage of the bead. I call this Color 2. Record color 2 under fluorescent and LED lighting. Keep going all the way until you hit the last color, which should take up the least amount of space on the bead. I’ve never really had a bead with more than 5 colors, but it’s certainly possible (think chevron beads).

Polychrome bead from Scotland

Polychrome bead from Scotland

For example, this bead has three colors. The first is a dark blackish purple (dark pinkish purple with LED) because it takes up the most space. This is Color 1, which I also sometimes refer to as the core color. The second color is a dark yellow with a light orange hue (same with LED) because it takes up the second largest amount of space on the bead. The third color is a light yellowish green (light greyish green with LED), because it takes up the least amount of space.

Yes, it really is that simple. If you’re not sure which color to do next, probably because there’s a roughly even amount of each color, just pick one. Beads rarely have two colors that take up similar amounts of space and are so similar as to get confused – otherwise you wouldn’t have noticed a second color. So if you have two colors taking up similar space, pick one. If people see the first color is blue, they’ll look for the blue in the photos rather than whatever other color you could have.

You might be worried about the shape and design of the colors you’re looking at. Don’t be. Not yet – they’re not part of the color, but part of the design. We’ll get there in future posts, but the shapes a color makes on a bead should not be noted here. Keep the section on color only about color.


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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One Response to Documenting Polychrome Beads

  1. Pingback: Eye Beads | Stringing the Past

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