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American Indian Beads & Beadwork

The tradition of American Indian beadwork is one of the oldest and most beloved artistic traditions to emerge from North American history. From ceremonial display to cultural chronicling, American Indian beadwork conveys the richness of the American Indian art historical past.

For generations, American Indian tribes have incorporated beads and beadwork into their accessories. From leather pouches and necklaces to more elaborate papooses, beaded accents enlivened these pieces, typically constructed from animal hide, with additional adornment. Originally, these beaded accents were conjured using organic materials, such as shells, but the introduction to North America of the glass seed bead by the 16th century changed American Indian beading practices entirely.

The more regularized bead shape, combined with the wide array of available colors, inspired American Indian artisans to create increasingly elaborate and colorful designs. It is these motifs that are perhaps most recognizable today and that offer a glimpse of the evolution of American Indian design over recent centuries.


Quick Facts

  • Some of the most coveted beads in early American Indian tradition were the purple and white beads, or "wampum," honed from quahog and whelk shells, respectively, created originally by the Eastern Woodlands peoples
  • Contrary to popular belief, “wampum” was not a form of money, though when strung together they were considered an elegant gift or symbol of political power
  • The early glass beads received by American Indians were most likely originally created in the great glass-making locale of Venice, which had been experiment with beads since the 14th century

Recommended Items at Auction

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Bead Necklaces and Bone Art [138432]
Oct 30, 8:00 AM PDT
Bead Necklaces and Bone Art [138432]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $200- $400
$1706 Bids
Antique c. 1910 Native American Apache Beaded Bag Large Oversize 24" x 10"
Oct 25, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique c. 1910 Native American Apache Beaded Bag Large Oversize 24" x 10"
by One Source Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$2755 Bids
Catlinite Pipe and Two Stems, several beaded items
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
Catlinite Pipe and Two Stems, several beaded items
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$804 Bids
Native American Indian beaded pipe bag
Oct 27, 9:00 AM EDT
Native American Indian beaded pipe bag
by Pook & Pook, Inc.
Est: $80- $120
$1104 Bids
§ Théo Kerg (Luxembourgian 1909-1993)
Oct 28, 10:00 AM BST
§ Théo Kerg (Luxembourgian 1909-1993)
by Cheffins
Est: £800- £1,200
£9503 Bids
Sioux Beaded Hide Tobacco Bag
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Sioux Beaded Hide Tobacco Bag
by Hindman
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$6003 Bids
Douglas Fast Horse (Oglala Lakota, b. 1943) Pictorial Beaded Leather Vest, 1985
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Douglas Fast Horse (Oglala Lakota, b. 1943) Pictorial Beaded Leather Vest, 1985
by Hindman
Est: $600- $800
$3003 Bids
Pair of Floral Beaded Gloves
Oct 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Pair of Floral Beaded Gloves
by Caza Sikes
Est: $50- $75
$503 Bids
Crow Beaded Floral Gloves
Oct 27, 11:00 AM EDT
Crow Beaded Floral Gloves
by Caza Sikes
Est: $50- $100
$603 Bids
MID-20TH CENTURY BEADED NATIVE AMERICAN BELT
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
MID-20TH CENTURY BEADED NATIVE AMERICAN BELT
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$1502 Bids
Beaded Rifle Case & 1873 32 WCF
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
Beaded Rifle Case & 1873 32 WCF
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$602 Bids
THREE PIECES OF NATIVE AMERICAN BEADWORK ITEMS.
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
THREE PIECES OF NATIVE AMERICAN BEADWORK ITEMS.
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $500- $800
$3502 Bids
Sioux Beaded Hide Doll
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Sioux Beaded Hide Doll
by Hindman
Est: $600- $800
$3752 Bids
Sioux Beaded "Doctor's Bag", with American Flags and Pinto Ponies
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Sioux Beaded "Doctor's Bag", with American Flags and Pinto Ponies
by Hindman
Est: $2,000- $4,000
$1,0002 Bids
Sioux Beaded Hide Cradle
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Sioux Beaded Hide Cradle
by Hindman
Est: $5,000- $7,000
$2,5002 Bids
Sioux Beaded Hide Doll Cradle
Nov 03, 10:00 AM MDT
Sioux Beaded Hide Doll Cradle
by Hindman
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,0002 Bids
Various Native American shell beads
Oct 27, 9:00 AM EDT
Various Native American shell beads
by Pook & Pook, Inc.
Est: $80- $120
$502 Bids
ATTR JOAN MIRO Signed Abstract Lithograph
Nov 17, 10:00 AM EST
ATTR JOAN MIRO Signed Abstract Lithograph
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc
Est: $800- $2,000
$22 Bids
Pair of 14k Gold and Beaded Pearl Studs
Oct 28, 12:00 PM EDT
Pair of 14k Gold and Beaded Pearl Studs
by Akiba Antiques
Est: $20- $200
$201 Bid
A buckskin vest decorated with bead work.
Oct 27, 9:00 AM PDT
A buckskin vest decorated with bead work.
by Maynards Fine Art & Antiques
Est: $100- $200
$701 Bid
EARLY 20TH CENTURY EASTERN PLAINS BEADED
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
EARLY 20TH CENTURY EASTERN PLAINS BEADED
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$1001 Bid
CROW MARTINGALE, CA. 1920. HAND BEADED, DIAMOND
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
CROW MARTINGALE, CA. 1920. HAND BEADED, DIAMOND
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5001 Bid
Three Bead Hyde Satchels largest 22 inches
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Three Bead Hyde Satchels largest 22 inches
by Nadeau's Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Beads & Beadwork


Pook & Pook, Inc.

Pook & Pook, Inc.

Hindman

Hindman

Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen GmbH

Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen GmbH