Beadwork is the art or craft of attaching beads to one another or to cloth using a needle and thread. Most beadwork takes the form of jewelry or other personal adornment, but beads are also used in wall hangings and sculpture.
Beadwork techniques are broadly divided into loom and off-loom weaving, stringing, bead embroidery, bead crochet, and bead knitting. Beadwork is the craft of making things with beads.
Most cultures have employed beads for personal adornment. Archaeological records show that people made and used beads as long as 5000 years ago. Beads have also been used for religious purposes, as good luck talismans, and as curative agents.
A bead is a small, decorative object that is pierced for threading or stringing. Beads range in size from under a millimeter to over a centimeter. Glass, plastic, and stone are probably the most common materials, but beads are also made from the seeds of the Bead tree, and also from bone, metal, resin, wood, clay, felt, paper, and other materials.
Bead stringing is the putting of beads on string. It can range from simply sliding a single bead onto any thread-like medium (string, silk thread, leather thong, thin wire, multi-strand beading wire) to complex creations that have multiple strands or interwoven levels. The choice of stringing medium can be an important point in the overall design, since string-type mediums might be subject to unwanted stretching if the weight of the beads is considerable. Similarly, certain bead types with sharp edges, such as hollow metal beads or some varieties of stone or glass, might abrade string and cause the strand to eventually break.
The simplest design would be a single bead centered as a focal point on the string medium. The ends of the string could be simply knotted together or components of a clasp might be attached to each end.
Next in complexity would be stringing multiple beads onto a single strand. Here alone are numerous opportunities for adding elements to the design concept. All the beads might be identical. The beads might be varied (in shape, color, type or any combination thereof) and used either in a random assortment or in a deliberate repeating pattern. Items not strictly defined as beads, such as pendants or "drops", might be placed within the strand to serve as focal points or accent elements in the design.
Knotting is a next level of proficiency in creating strands. Here the stringing medium (traditionally silk thread or another similar, synthetic medium) has knots tied into it as a means of separating the individual beads from each other. The traditional strand of pearls is a well-known example of this technique. Pearls are threaded onto silk, and a knot is tied between each one to not only space them for greater individual prominence but to also keep them from rubbing directly against each other and risking the abrasion of the nacre that gives them their luster. This classic design can be varied by adding or using other varieties of beads or varying the number and placement of knots used.
Multiple strands can be created using either the simple stringing or the knotting technique. Here, depending on the overall design, greater advance planning may be called for. If the bead pattern is random, the only concern would generally be that one strand be sized shorter than the next, so they will all lay flat and not interfere with each other when worn or displayed. However, if a specific repeating pattern is planned, then careful planning will be required so that the placement of matching portions of the pattern between the strands are aligned properly. A beading board, generally a flat panel with measured curved indentations in several staggered lengths, is a useful tool for spacing the beads to work out the desired pattern. Once the design has been worked out, joining the strands together might require special multiple-strand clasp fixtures unless there is a single knotting point or specific design element that will accommodate it.
Beadwork patterns come in a variety of styles and colors. Most Native American tribes have their own histories as to when they first used beads. Wampum, a type of shell used to decorate and adorn clothing, were also used in the eastern United States for trade in the early Colonial days.
Jewelry consists of ornamental devices worn by persons, typically made with gems and precious metals. Costume jewelry is made from less valuable materials. However, jewelry can and has been made out of almost every kind of material. Examples include bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings, as well as items like hair ornaments or body piercing jewelry.
The word is derived from the word "jewel", which was anglicized from the Old French "jouel" in around the 13th century. Further tracing leads back to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything.
Jewelry, particularly when made with precious materials, is generally considered valuable and desirable. Some cultures have a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewelry. Jewelry can also be symbolic, as in the case of Christians wearing a crucifix in the form of jewelry, or, as is the case in many Western cultures, married people wearing a wedding ring.
Jewelry in various forms has been made and worn by both sexes in almost every (if not every) human culture, on every inhabited continent.
A lapidary (the word means "concerned with stones") is an artisan who practices the craft of working, forming and finishing stone, mineral, gemstones, and other suitably durable materials (amber, shell, jet, pearl, copal, coral, horn and bone, glass and other synthetics) into functional and/or decorative, even wearable, items. When used as an adjective, the word refers to such arts. Because of their highly specialized skills, diamond cutters are generally not referred to as lapidaries.
The arts of a sculptor or stonemason are generally too broad in scale to fall within the definition, though chiseling inscriptions in stone, and preparing laboratory 'thin sections' may be considered lapidary arts. The term is most commonly associated with jewelry and decorative household items (e.g. bookends, clock faces, ornaments, etc.) A specialized form of lapidary work is the inlaying of marble and gemstones into a marble matrix, known in English as "pietra dura" for the hardstones like onyx, jasper and carnelian that are used, but called in Florence and Naples, where the technique was developed in the 16th century, opere di commessi. The Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo in Florence is completely veneered with inlaid hardstones. A lapidary specialty developed from the late 18th century in Naples and Rome are the "micro-mosaics" assembled out of many minute slivers of stone to create still life, cityscape views and the like.
In China lapidary work specializing in jade carving has been continuous since the Shang dynasty.
There exists three broad categories of lapidary arts. These are the procedures of (1) tumbling, (2) cabochon cutting, and (3) faceting.
At present most lapidary work is accomplished using motorized equipment and resin or metal bonded diamond tooling in successively decreasing particle sizes until a polish is achieved. Often, the final polish will use a different medium, such as tin oxide, or cerium oxide. Older techniques, still popular with hobbyists, used bonded grind wheels of silicon carbide, with only using a diamond tipped saw. Diamond cutting, because of the extreme hardness of diamonds, cannot be done with silicon carbide, and requires the use of diamond tools.
Lapidary has a secondary meaning, "of inscriptions." Since inscriptions were laboriously chiseled into stone, a "lapidary" style is crisp, accurate, formal, and condensed. Only the most accomplished can express themselves verbally in a lapidary style.