1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bead

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Bead, a small globule or ball used in necklaces, and made of different materials, as metal, coral, diamond, amber, ivory, stone, pottery, glass, rock-crystal and seeds. The word is derived from the Middle Eng. bede, from the common Teutonic word for “to pray,” cf. German beten and English bedesman, the meaning being transferred from “prayer” to the spherical bodies strung on a rosary and used in counting prayers. Beads have been made from remote antiquity, and are found in early Egyptian tombs; variegated glass beads, found in the ground in certain parts of Africa, as Ashantiland, and highly prized by the natives as aggry-beads, are supposed to be of Egyptian or Phoenician origin. Beads of the more expensive materials are strung in necklaces and worn as articles of personal adornment, while the cheaper kinds are employed for the decoration of women's dress. Glass beads have long been used for purposes of barter with savage tribes, and are made in enormous numbers and varieties, especially in Venice, where the manufacture has existed from at least the 14th century. Glass, either transparent, or of opaque coloured enamel (smalti), or having complex patterns produced by the twisting of threads of coloured glass through a transparent body, is drawn out into long tubes, from which the beads are pinched off, and finished by being rotated with sand and ashes in heated cylinders.

In architecture, the term “bead” is given to a small cylindrical moulding, in classic work often cut into bead and reel.