In 2013 The Purse Museum was able to purchase an amazing collection of antique and vintage seed beads from the estate of purse design/manufacturer Ed B Robinson. They had been in a warehouse since the 1950's.
For a purse collector this is like finding nirvana. Most beaded purses are missing beads, and they are becoming more and more difficult to locate. Until recently some tiny glass beads were still being made in the Czech republic but they were in larger sizes. Those factories are now closed. The tiniest micro beads haven't been made since the early 1900's.
The collection is 'eye candy'! What is most amazing is that some of the beads are not glass, but rather colored metal, probably aluminum; handmade in France over 100 years ago. When I was doing internet research I could hardly find pictures of these extraordinary hanks.
The images below will give you a taste.... and the pages that follow will show how these beads, both glass and metal were used to create functional fashion art.
antique and extremely rare
the base metal is probably aluminum the color is
some of beads pictured above are in antique sizing 16/0 & 18/0
the collection included beads even smaller, but the quantities are too small to show. Sizing on antique beads is different than contemporary bead. Not only are the beads smaller in size, but they were sold strung and are measured in beads per inch on the strand. Modern beads sold loose are measured lying flat with the hole showing like a doughnut. There is no standard for antique bead measurement.
They were handmade, and are different not only from different countries of manufacture, but size on the strand. The colors are beautiful. Red colors used gold. Modern glass beads do not use the same color formulas. These old beads are magical!
A 16/0 bead could have somewheree between 20 - 30 beads per inch and an 18/0 between 25-40. In order to count the beads I laid the strand next to a ruler, photographed the beads and enlarged the picture.