Beadwork is an ancient tradition in Native North America, going back at least a thousand years to the Mississippian period, where at Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, an important person was interred with thousands of shell beads.

East Coast tribes produced great qualities of clam shell beads, or wampum, which they used to cement political and social contracts. With the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, glass beads, primarily from Venice, Italy, were introduced into the Americas. Glass beads became an important component of the fur and hide trade between Native Americans and Euro Americans. By the mid to late 19th century, most of the beads used by Native artisans were the smaller Venetian "seed" beads.

When viewing the objects offered for sale here, you will note the huge variety of bead colors and designs used by Native artists in their surface decoration.