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African Ivory Beads circa 900-1500AD


Hi all, This is officially my first post to the Orchid forum. My mother
gave me a box of beads that she bought many years ago from a lady who used
to travel the world in search of rare and unusual items. The box contains
a temporary strung set of hand carved African ivory beads with a hand
carved ivory clasp. There are also some beads which are some sort of stone
which is reddish brown in color, not strung. Enclosed with the beads is a
hand written description which reads:

African ivory beads: Kenya
Hand drilled beads upper Magdelena (I may be spelling this wrong it is hard 
to read the writing)
River Wash Columbia
circa 900-1500 AD
(and the paper is signed)
Juliet Ernst Thomas

My question is: Any suggestions where I could take these beads and have
them appraised? I am not expecting them to be worth a fistful but I would
hate to incorporate them into my work and sell them then find out later
that they were rare and worth thousands! :slight_smile: Any ideas? Thanks! Laney Clark

Laney Clark Kinetic Jewelry Design


Laney, As someone who has been in the “bead business” for almost
8 years, I’ve learned that the only people who really know about
old beads are people who are passionate about and have
specifically studied old beads. Two names come to mind: Robert
Liu, co-editor of Ornament Magazine (who got his PhD in something
to do with beads/anthropology), and Peter Francis, who lives
somewhere in New Mexico, I think. Peter Francis is sort of the
recognized authority on identifying rare old beads.

You might search for a knowledgeable person in your area through
your local bead society. (Yes, there are such things, devoted to
the study and and promotion of beads and beadwork, new and old).
If you are anywhere near a large metropolitan area, there will be
a nearby bead society. Check in the yellow pages for bead stores,
and the owners of the stores should be able to provide you with

If you can wait awhile, there is a show in Santa Fe late in
March called “Bead Expo 2000”. It is also known as the "Recursos"
show, and Peter Francis is affiliated with it. There are
lectures/workshops geared toward bead research.

Also, in Glendale, Arizona there is the Bead Museum. They have a
fantastic collection of old beads from all over the world. The
founder of the museum is Gabriele Liese, but she recently turned
over the reins to a younger crew. Anyway, they should be in the
phone book, and might be able to help you with contact

If your beads are really that old, I’d seriously hesitate before
I’d incorporate them into jewelry. The wearer will never really
appreciate their worth, and they would be worth much more if kept

Hopes this helps some.

Rene Roberts