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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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pipe tomahawk w/ beaded handle
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
pipe tomahawk w/ beaded handle
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$3509 Bids
beaded handle tomahawk pipe
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
beaded handle tomahawk pipe
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$1258 Bids
colorfully beaded Bandolier bag
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
colorfully beaded Bandolier bag
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$2757 Bids
beaded tobacco pouch
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
beaded tobacco pouch
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$1255 Bids
Plains Native American Indian Strike a Light Bag
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Plains Native American Indian Strike a Light Bag
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $100- $150
$505 Bids
beaded tobacco pouch w/ tinklers
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
beaded tobacco pouch w/ tinklers
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$204 Bids
Plains Native American Indian Medicine Pouch
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Plains Native American Indian Medicine Pouch
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $100- $150
$203 Bids
Navajo Indian Beaded Wall Hanging
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Navajo Indian Beaded Wall Hanging
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $50- $75
$152 Bids
Two Iroquois beaded birds
Feb 28, 9:00 AM EST
Two Iroquois beaded birds
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $120- $160
$602 Bids
Arapahoe Beaded & Fringed Hide Pipe Bag
Mar 09, 10:00 AM EST
Arapahoe Beaded & Fringed Hide Pipe Bag
by Roland Auctions NY
Est: $400- $600
$2252 Bids
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Apr 07, 1:00 PM CDT
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Apr 07, 1:00 PM CDT
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Apr 07, 1:00 PM CDT
Chevron Bead Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
BEADED shoulder piece w/ flowers
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
BEADED shoulder piece w/ flowers
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
3 VERY COLORFUL beaded gourd bowls
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
3 VERY COLORFUL beaded gourd bowls
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Mar 03, 1:00 PM CST
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Mar 03, 1:00 PM CST
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Mar 03, 1:00 PM CST
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
4 misc. beaded pieces
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
4 misc. beaded pieces
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
beaded wampum belt
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
beaded wampum belt
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Mar 03, 1:00 PM CST
Beaded Belt Buckle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Iroquois Native American Indian Beaded Pouch
Mar 03, 9:00 AM MST
Iroquois Native American Indian Beaded Pouch
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$101 Bid
Antique Black Beaded Capelet/Tippet, circa 1870-90
Mar 01, 12:00 PM PST
Antique Black Beaded Capelet/Tippet, circa 1870-90
by District Auction
Est: $0- $0
$101 Bid

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Beads & Beadwork


Davis Brothers Auction

Davis Brothers Auction

Artemis Gallery

Artemis Gallery