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What are Crow Beads?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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As one of the essentials in creating authentic Native American jewelry, crow beads are a little different from most of the mass produced craft beads that are generally used. Known for being larger than many types of beads, the crow bead is used for several different types of adornment, as well as in the production of jewelry pieces. Here are some facts about crow beads, along with some examples of how crow beads are used in a number of ways.

Crow beads were once made solely of glass. The glass beads were often large in size, so they would figure prominently in a sculpted piece of jewelry. The range of color and texture of the glass bead would vary, depending on the individual who would create the beads. Many of the crow beads were made of opaque glass, although examples of colored translucent beads are very easy to find. The arrangement of the crow beads in the design often had some significance and formed the basis for preserving the memory of an event. The event could have to do with the immediate family or the tribe.

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Today, crow beads no longer have to be created by hand. Large amounts of crow beads are manufactured for use in all sorts of jewelry and garments that have some connection to Native American culture. While beading that is made of glass is still very popular, the manufacturing of crow beads in various forms of plastic and in a rainbow of colors has also become common.

Crow beads are usually found as part of the design for such items as chokers, necklaces, and arm and ankle bracelets. While most of the items are made these days simply for looks and not to act as a silent history of a past event, it is still possible to obtain pieces made with crow beads that do have some significance other than looks. Native American beadworkers may meet with a client and talk with them about the historical significance of crow beads and offer to create a design that serves as a memorial of an event that is dear to the customer.

Crow beads are also often found as part of ceremonial clothing, including head dressing. When made for a specific ritual, the placement and color of the beads provide visual reminders of something connected with the ritual. However, in most cases, the mass produced type of Native American clothing is designed more to be pleasing to the eye. While the function of the crow beads has changed over time, there is no doubt they are attractive and can be used to create beautiful pieces of jewelry and attractive garments.

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