History of Beads

In New Orleans, Louisiana, the tradition of using glass bead necklaces as throws used as lagniappe (a little something extra) became popular in the mid-1920’s, and carried on through out the 1930’s, along with pressed metal coins representing the Krewe (an Old English term for crew), continued into the 1940’s. In the early 1950’s cheaper plastic beads slowly began to work their way in onto the Mardi Gras floats from the various Krewes such as Rex, Bacchus, Comus, Hermes and Zulu to name a few of the major Krewes.





The Mardi Gras is actually a season, which also known as the Feast of the Epiphany or 12th Night, which marks the end of the Christmas season. Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday), is the end of the two and a half week season, and the beginning of Christian period called Lent (which is 40 days before Easter Sunday). In New Orleans, and in all areas where Mardi Gras is observed the parades, floats and parties come to a head on Fat Tuesday and ends at the stroke of midnight. Even today during the many Mardi Gras parades you can hear “hey, trow me som beads!” coming from the crowds lining the streets, to watch the floats as they pass on by.



Our necklaces began from just those types of vintage beads, which were thrown from floats during that time period. The necklaces would sometimes hit the ground causing a very slight chip or scratch in the glass bead. Almost of the glass beads used in the 1930’s and 40’s were made in Czechoslovakia’s glass factories. These renowned factories were well known for hand crafting beads in various vivid colors, and unique shapes much more vibrant than the typical glass or plastic beads you see today.


The period during both the First, and especially the Second World War, brought the Czechoslovakian glass bead manufacturing to a halt. With many of the glass factories closing, both the owners and workers left the country to avoid the destructive path of the Nazi’s. After the war, with the Russians having their hold on Czechoslovakia, they took control over many of the abandoned glass factories, seizing both glass and molds. Making only utilitarian glass products, they let the bead manufacturing go by the wayside. Only recently have some of the original glass molds been discovered and repaired, to once again produce those unique little glass beads with their true colors. However, old bead stock and necklaces, as well as attic finds, are surfacing from our Southern States. Unfortunately, Hurricanes Hugo, Katrina and the Flood of 2011, have had a great impact on availability of these rare and beautiful glass bead necklaces, which range in age from 50 to 80 years old.

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