Enquiry about object: 9291

    Your First Name (required)

    Your Last Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Your Country (required)

    Your Message

    Magnificent Chevron Bead Necklace

    Venice, probably for the West African market
    19th century

    circumference: approximately 86cm, average bead length: 3cm, weight: 377g



    private collection, US

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This beautiful necklace comprises 20 genuine, Venetian barrel-shaped glass chevron beads and small round blue glass beads. (Chevron beads also are called rosetta beads.) Each bead is of particularly high quality with the dominant colour being white (from age-related wear) rather than the usual blue, so that the strand overall is particularly elegant and cohesive.

    Importantly, the necklace retains its original stringing.

    Each of these beads is well matched and has six layers of red, white and blue glass. ‘Six-layer’ chevron beads were produced in Venice from the early 19th century largely for the new colonies established by Europeans in Africa. ‘Six-layer’ chevrons were regarded as the chevron beads that attained the most splendour, with impeccable cut and colour (Panini, 2008, p. 177).

    Chevron beads were first created in Venice around 1500. They were made for the next 500 years. They involved fusing layer upon layer of different coloured glass over a core and then grinding and polishing the resulting bead back to reveal a striped pattern on the sides and a star pattern on the ends. Chevron beads were one of the great trade bead exports from Venice. Their quality varied significantly. West Africa was once of the main markets for the beads, where they were highly prized by different tribes and particularly the Kuba people in the Ivory Coast. Often the beads were incorporated into the necklaces of local chiefs and often were included in royal treasuries. Nigeria, Mali, Congo and Guinea were other important markets.

    Fisher (1987, p. 61) illustrates a Dinka elder in Sudan who claimed that the old Venetian chevron beads in his necklace were ‘a gift from God’. Fisher mentions that such beads are rare in East Africa and had probably been traded in from West Africa.

    In addition to West Africa, early on, the beads were exported to South America and Java in Indonesia.

    The beads here are in very fine condition. There are no chips. Wear to the surface of each bead has revealed the underlying white layers. It is rare to see a strand of antique chevron beads of this quality and so well matched. The necklace is wearable and stable.

    The wear on the beads, their sheen, and the fact that they are ‘six-layer’ chevrons suggests a 19th century dating.


    Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994.

    Fisher, A., Africa Adorned, Collins Harvill, 1987.

    Leurquin, A., A World of Necklaces: Africa, Asia, Oceania, America from the Ghysels Collection, Skira, 2003.

    Panini, A., Middle Eastern and Venetian Glass Beads: Eighth to Twentieth Centuries, Skira, 2007.

    Sherr Dubin, L., The Worldwide History of Beads, Thames & Hudson, 2009.

    Dozens of items are added to our website each month. Be among the first to know about them.
    Sign up to our monthly catalogue