These antique Venetian white hearts are a rich orange-y red; the color reminds me a lot of carnelian agate. They’re a cylinder or tube shape, and each bead measures approximately 2×3 mm; when strung, there are approximately 6-8 beads per inch. Their irregular size and shape attests to their handmade nature. As you can see from the main photo, some beads may be partially strung.
Also known as “Hudson Bay” or “Cornaline D’Allepo” beads, this style was produced in Italy from the early 1800s to the 1960s – though this particular stock dates from between the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. The name “white heart” references the core of white glass at the center of the bead. Back then, red glass was made using real gold, so these beads were very expensive to produce. In order to conserve the red/gold glass, it was wound around a white core. When strung, the white is hardly visible – but if you lay the beads with the hole facing up, you can see the white at the heart of each bead. Over the years these beads have acquired a lovely translucent patina.
Whitehearts were used in the African bead trade, and they are often seen in old Native American beadwork as well. Because of how they were traded around the world, they’re often referred to as “trade beads”. Whether it is due to their history or their beauty, these old and uncommon beads are quite collectible.
To help you visualize their size and scale, the beads are shown with a ruler and a US dime (which measures 18 mm). The plastic bag measures 2″ x 2″ and holds 10 grams of beads, the wire sections have 1″ of beads strung on them.
Size = 2×3 mm, approximately 6-8 beads per inch when strung