Beads: made in Amsterdam

A lot is still unclear about what beads were and weren’t made in Amsterdam. Dutch traders played a big role in the distribution of trade beads, but their role in the production is still not completely uncovered. Some more of the Amsterdam beadmaking history has recently seen the light, with the publication of a report by the archeological department of the city of Amsterdam. This report shows and explains the finds from excavations done at the ‘Rozengracht’ in 2006. Most interesting are the finds from the glasshouse ‘De Twee Rozen’, which means ‘The Two Roses’. This glasshouse dates from 1657 and was in business untill 1669. In the glasshouse they both produced frit, which is the raw material for glass production, and actual glass objects, including beads.

From the glass waste, half finished products and finished glass items, the archeologists were able to get a good sense of how the glasshouse worked and what they made. I was obviously mostly interested in the beads. The types of beads or bead parts they mostly found are: plain and striped small drawn beads, millefiori cane slices, a speo beads and chevron beads. I will discuss these different beads. Due to copyright on the report, I can not use any of the images on this blog. However, with the link and instructions at the bottom of this post, the full report can be downloaded from the city of Amsterdam. I will refer to the beads by the numbers and pictures that can be found from page 112 and further. An overview of the different types of beads are on page 44. Also, I am using some (poor) pictures that I made at the very small exhibit at the city archives that is currently on display.

A lot of small drawn beads are found at the glasshouse. Most of them are long ‘bugle’ type drawn beads. They come in a great range of colours. Some of the beads have stripes, either horizontal or twisted siagonally. Numbers 7.1.1 to 7.1.10 are ecamples of beads like this.
In the glass lot, some millefiori cane slices were found that show a great level of skill and are quite unlike other millefiori beads and canes I have seen before. The canes could be used for beads, as decoration on glasses or goblets or on other glass products. No finishes millefiori glasswork was found by the archeologists. Most of the canes that are found are made by arringing a lot of tiny glass rods together and fusing them. These tiny rods look very much like the drawn beads, with the distinction that they have no perforation. Examples can be seen on page 127, numbers 8.5.2, 8.5.3 and 8.5.4.
The result are beautiful canes such as on page 130, numbers 8.7.6, 8.7.7 and 8.7.8.
An other type of millefiori slices show an image of a skull, which is quite remarkable. The canes slices can be found on page 131, number 8.7.10.

After the drawn beads, the bulk of the glass beads that were found were the ‘a speo beads’. Drawn beads, with several layers and stripes, are cut into pieces. These pieces are placed on a metal rod and heated in the furnace. As a result of the heat, the edges of the bead are rounded. A lot of the beads that were found were beads that had flaws, for example because they were accidentally fused together in the furnace.

Finally, two pieces of chevron beads were found. One is very small, and the other is quite big. They can be found on page 121, number 7.4.1 and 7.4.2. I am no expert on chevron beads, but certainly the big one looks to me like the 7-layer chevron beads that are usually said to be made in Venice around 1600. It would be really suprising to me, if they were also made in the glasshouse ‘The Two Roses’. Only two pieces of finished chevron beads were found, but no canes or star molds. It seems more likely to me, that they were part of the inventory of beads that the glass house used for reference.
The big chevron piece has a wonderful neon green patina from being buried and is quite impressive.

So far my quick review of the archeological report, which was fascinating to read. It is very uncommon for beads to be found with so much information surrounding them, and with such extensive research being done. I highly recommend at least a glance through it. It is written in Dutch, but has an English summary and list of figures in English. The report can de downloaded at this site from the city of Amsterdam.  The report is number 50, with the title ‘Rozenstraat’. The report is also available in print from the city archive.