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What's a Bead?

A survey of dictionaries and encyclopedias will reveal that the usual definition of a bead goes something like this: "A bead is a small, round object with a hole in it used for necklaces, etc."

I do not find this satisfying. For one thing, many beads are not round. For another, they are not all small. They do not all have holes, and their uses go far beyond necklaces.

My definition would be more on these lines: "A bead is an object capable of being strung and used for the many tasks assigned to it by various cultures. These include (but are not limited to) symbols of status and group membership; ornamentation of people, animals, and things; mnemonic devices; counting devices; amulets and talismans; and others."
See the section on
Bead Uses.

Not everyone agrees with me, of course. Deobrah Zinn says that anything with a hole in it
is a bead. She demonstrates and I comment on this

Then there is the ambiguous position of
the "pop" or "pop-in" bead.

Do you know a bead when you see one?

Take the
Bead Quiz.


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