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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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Quilled Effigy Bag
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Quilled Effigy Bag
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
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LOT OF 7 ANTIQUE IROQUOIS HAND BEADED WHIMSY PURSES
Dec 03, 9:00 AM MST
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Est: $0- $0
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Nice Looking Vintage Native American Indian Beaded Bag
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5 Beaded Strike-a-lite Bags
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5 Beaded Strike-a-lite Bags
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Est: $40- $1,000
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4 Beaded Plains Strike-a-lite Bags
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Beaded & painted Hide Leggings
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded & painted Hide Leggings
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded Ute Pipe Bag
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Beaded Bag and Beaded Strap
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded Bag and Beaded Strap
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
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Beaded Bag
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded Bag
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Blackfoot Dual Sided Pattern Beaded Pipe Bag
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Blackfoot Dual Sided Pattern Beaded Pipe Bag
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Otter Bag
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Otter Bag
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Belt Sheath
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Belt Sheath
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$1254 Bids
Beaded on Thick Buffalo Rawhide Knife Sheath
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded on Thick Buffalo Rawhide Knife Sheath
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
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Sioux Beaded Holster
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Sioux Beaded Holster
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Beaded Ute Sheaths
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded Ute Sheaths
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Est: $40- $1,000
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Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Beaded Rifle Scabbard
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$1504 Bids
Cheyenne Beaded Pipe Bag
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Cheyenne Beaded Pipe Bag
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$1504 Bids
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ARMAND AMERICAN HORSE HAND BEADED CLUTCH
Dec 04, 9:00 AM MST
ARMAND AMERICAN HORSE HAND BEADED CLUTCH
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$254 Bids

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Beads & Beadwork


Jackson's International

Jackson's International

Thriftiques of Iowa

Thriftiques of Iowa