Beadmaking in Bohemia (Czech Rep.)
Bohemia is a plateau in central Europe ringed by mountains. It was an early Celtic region and glass beads were made in southern Bohemia by ca. 250 B.C.
Bohemia's power waxed and waned. It was a full member of the Holy Roman Empire and later was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After WW 1 it was united with Moravia and Slovakia into Czechoslovakia. After the fall of Communism in East Europe, Moravia and Bohemia formed the Czech Republic and Slovakia struck out on its own.
The native people are Czechs or Bohemians. They speak Czech. The beads are Czech (or less often Bohemian). There is no such word as "Czecho."
In the 14th century, as people began to populate the more mountainous north, glass factories appeared in this region (they had only been in the south before). The area has natural resources, especially wood for furnaces. It also has abundant waterpower. The later came to be used for cutting glass, which had great ramifications for the later bead industry.
The village of Turnov was (along with Prague) a center for cutting pyrope garnets. By the early 18th century the cutters had figured out a way to imitate the rich red color in glass. It wasn't too much longer that they were turning out beads. By the 1860s they were outselling Venice, the center being Jablonec nad Nisou. Take a tour of the Czech beadmaking region. Wars and ideologies stifled production, but today they again are one of the leading beadmakers of the world.
Historically, the Czechs are best known for their molded beads and those decorated by grinding. They are the world's biggest seed bead makers. They also make lamp-wound beads, including some that have been fraudulently sold as old trade beads in remarkable condition.
My first (1979) and second (1988) books on Czech beads are long out of print. I have updated the information and published it in Margaretologist 13(1) [plates are here], as I did with Venetian beads. I plan to start this in 2000. Join the Center now and get it first.
Shari Hopper has made a wonderful video documentary on the making of glass beads in Bohemia and related places. See the page on Bohemian Beadmaking.
Small Bead Businesses | Beading & Beadwork | Ancient Beads | Trade Beads