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Introduction to the pages on beadwork

Among the ethnic minorities in the north and south of the Philippines, beads and beadwork are an indispensable part of the costume and of the personal adornments. Certain types of beads can be a demonstration of the wealth of the owner. In the south, and especially in Mindanao, beads are used to add complex adornments to clothing.

Beads are made from a variety of materials. The most common are made of glass. They are usually new, in bright colors. In addition to glass, ceramics, seeds, wood, shells and mother of pearl are also used. Large cylindrical beads made of glass paste, with embedded designs can be hundreds of years old. The beads were made in Europe, many of them in Venice, and made their way to Asia via trade journeys made by Marco Polo and others, where they found their way to various ethnic groups through further trade routes.These ancient beads can locally have high values. They could worth one or more horses or gongs, or could be sufficient for a dowry.

Old beads are often worn individually, tied to a cord. Smaller beads of glass, seeds or other material are woven into one or more strands and used as necklaces. Strands of beads may also hang from "ear plugs" (discs of shell, bone or wood, inserted into a hole in the earlobes) from one ear to the other. In some groups, garments are covered with motifs made of beads, and complex weavings with thread and beads are made ('lacy netted beadwork').

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