Recycled Blue-Green Bead from Thailand

So, I was going through my older bead photos for some newer posts and came across this one. Somehow I had forgotten about this bead, even though I focused on it quite heavily when I first documented it.


It’s a recycled, drawn, translucent (believe it or not) blue-green Indo-Pacific bead from southern Thailand.

Let’s unpack all that a bit.

It’s blue-green.  I would say the primary color is a medium blue, the secondary hue is a light green, maybe a medium green.

It’s recycled glass. I can tell form the streaks of yellowish-green all over the bead. The colors aren’t really mixed well, meaning it’s most likely recycled. It also begs the question of whether any one intentionally put green glass in there, or if they mixed blue and yellow, which ended up as the blue-green color with the greenish streaks. I honestly don’t know the answer to that, and I suspect we may never know.

Beads with patina on surface and inside perforation.

Beads with patina on surface and inside perforation. See what I mean?

It’s translucent (believe it or not). Many beads in Southeast Asia tend to have a lot of dirt around them, a sort of patina of the clay-like mud that’s fairly common in that region. They also tend to have this dirt all around the perforations, making all the beads seem opaque (since they’ve been sitting in this dirt for so long). But once you shine a light through, you realize they’re actually translucent, not opaque.

It’s drawn. All the striations are moving parallel to the perforation, meaning this bead was drawn out, then cut and rounded. This is incredibly common in Asia, but the method was never used in Europe. So we know this bead wasn’t made in Europe (not surprising).

It’s Indo-Pacific. Indo-Pacific beads, as defined by Peter Francis, are drawn, monochrome beads less than 6mm in diameter. They’re everywhere across the Indo-Pacific region, hence their name. They’re also known as seed beads, but seed beads can be wound or drawn, whereas Indo-Pacific beads are specifically drawn.

I remember the recycled nature of the bead caught my attention the most – I hadn’t seen recycling quite that obvious before, and I hadn’t really seen it of that nature. Now I’m wondering if it’s really “recycling” per se. If someone mixes two colors of glass, is that recycling, or is it creating a bead? Where’s the line between manufacture and recycling? Honestly, I’m not sure.


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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