These vintage Venetian white heart bead strands are from the 1930’s. The color is a a classic bright cherry red with a great translucent sheen. They were purchased loose and then restrung on fishing line; the strand weighs about 1 ounce, and measures 30″ long. The beads are about the equivalent of a size 4/0 seed bead, with about 7 beads per inch when strung. Each bead measures about 3-4 mm each, and their irregular size and shape attests to their handmade nature. I counted out a sample strand, and it had about 210 beads.
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 around the 1930’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.
Size = 3-4 mm per bead, about 7 beads per inch
Quantitiy = one 30″ strand of beads