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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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COLLECTION OF NATIVE AMERICAN HAND BEADED WHIMSIES & OTHERS
May 31, 10:00 AM CDT
COLLECTION OF NATIVE AMERICAN HAND BEADED WHIMSIES & OTHERS
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$2006 Bids
Pacific Native American Dentalium Tusk Shell
May 25, 10:00 AM MST
Pacific Native American Dentalium Tusk Shell
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$1006 Bids
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LOT OF 10 ASSORTED NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED LEATHER ITEMS
Jun 09, 9:00 AM MST
LOT OF 10 ASSORTED NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED LEATHER ITEMS
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$303 Bids
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LOT OF 2 NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED BAG & PARFLECHE
Jun 09, 9:00 AM MST
LOT OF 2 NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED BAG & PARFLECHE
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$303 Bids
Navajo Beaded Belt
Jun 22, 9:30 AM EDT
Navajo Beaded Belt
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$302 Bids
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LOT OF 2 NATIVE AMERICAN HAND BEADED LEATHER PIPE BAGS
Jun 09, 9:00 AM MST
LOT OF 2 NATIVE AMERICAN HAND BEADED LEATHER PIPE BAGS
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$102 Bids
Group of Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Group of Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Group of Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Group of Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Group of Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Group of Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Native American 19C. Antique Jicarilla Apache Belt
May 29, 12:00 PM EDT
Native American 19C. Antique Jicarilla Apache Belt
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$501 Bid
FINE ANISHINAABE GREAT LAKES BEADED BANDOLIER BAG.
Jun 09, 10:00 AM EDT
FINE ANISHINAABE GREAT LAKES BEADED BANDOLIER BAG.
by Poulin Antiques & Auctions
Est: $500- $700
$2501 Bid
Plains Beaded Hide Pouch
May 29, 10:00 AM EDT
Plains Beaded Hide Pouch
by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
Est: $300- $900
$1501 Bid
Indian made Medicine Man’s Pouch with Antler Awl
Jun 22, 9:30 AM EDT
Indian made Medicine Man’s Pouch with Antler Awl
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
Arapaho Beaded and Quillwork Pipe Bag
May 31, 12:00 PM EDT
Arapaho Beaded and Quillwork Pipe Bag
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $800- $1,200
$4001 Bid
Pottery Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Pottery Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$101 Bid
Cherokee Indian made Canvas Beaded Bag
Jun 22, 9:30 AM EDT
Cherokee Indian made Canvas Beaded Bag
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
Crow Beaded Hide Dress
May 31, 12:00 PM EDT
Crow Beaded Hide Dress
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$7500 Bids
Native American Woman's Hair Drops
May 31, 12:00 PM EDT
Native American Woman's Hair Drops
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
FINE PAIR OF PONY BEAD PANELED LEGGINGS.
Jun 09, 10:00 AM EDT
FINE PAIR OF PONY BEAD PANELED LEGGINGS.
by Poulin Antiques & Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
Shell Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Shell Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$100 Bids
Chevron Bead
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Chevron Bead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$100 Bids
FINE PAIR OF PUBLISHED BEADED INDIAN ARM BANDS.
Jun 09, 10:00 AM EDT
FINE PAIR OF PUBLISHED BEADED INDIAN ARM BANDS.
by Poulin Antiques & Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
PAIR OF NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED PLAINS LEGGINGS &
Jun 09, 10:00 AM EDT
PAIR OF NATIVE AMERICAN BEADED PLAINS LEGGINGS &
by Poulin Antiques & Auctions
Est: $700- $900
$3500 Bids
Group of Beads
May 26, 1:00 PM CDT
Group of Beads
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Beads & Beadwork


Poulin Antiques & Auctions

Poulin Antiques & Auctions

Cottone Auctions

Cottone Auctions

Bradford's

Bradford's