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').