Station: [46] Chevron Beads

  • Glasmuseum Wertheim


To the North American Indians glass was an unknown material and glass beads therefore carried a high trade value. The first European glass beads are supposed to have been introduced to the new world by Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1492. Researchers and missionaries first offered them to the Indians as gifts. But they later played an important role as bartered goods for among others, fur, tobacco and slaves. The Europeans used glass pearls to their advantage in the battle for the conquest and exploitation of the new colonies.


Peter Minnewit was the first governor of New Holland. In 1626 he’s supposed to have bought the island of Manhattan – today’s New York City - from the Manhato Indians for a handful of glass beads. At the time they were valued at around 60 Gulden, which was a master bricklayer’s yearly wage, or the value of 10 horses or 50 cows. The Spanish, English and French mainly used Venetian glass beads for the barter trade, while the Dutch traded their own beads from 1600 to around 1750.


Chevron beads were some of those made in Amsterdam in Venetian style. Thea Elisabeth Haevernick had the Chevron beads examined and concluded that they didn’t come from Egypt, but from 15th century Venice. It was only later that day were produced in Amsterdam and the Thuringian Forest by Venetian immigrants. Chevron means zigzag by the way.