The craft of making beads from different material is ancient and a large number of beads have been found from various sites belonging to the Indus valley civilization. The craftsmen of this civilization made beads out of wood, gold, silver, copper, clay and ivory. The discovery of a hoard of finished and semi-finished beads from various sites, during excavations, reveal that bead making was a popular form of industry at that time.

The Mughal rulers were great patrons of jewelry making. Bead necklaces of all sizes and shapes, made up of precious and semi-precious stones were a commonplace during the Mughal era.

Bead making got an impetus during the arrival of the Europeans to India, who demanded large amounts of transparent and semi-transparent beads. The British took beads made of semi precious stones from India during the 19th century.

The contemporary bead making craft tradition of India is vast and varied:

Beads are not only used for making necklaces and amulets etc but are also used in embroidery. The process of making beads is simple but time consuming. The material out of which beads are to be made is firstly chiseled to obtain a desired shape and size. Then a hole is drilled into the material, so that a string passes through it, to facilitate stringing of a number of beads together. However beads made from glass are created during the process of glass blowing itself.


India has the largest production base for glass beads. Banaras is the main center for the production of glass beads and is known for beads made from fused glass rods, while Purdilpur is famous for its black glass beads. Beads from Banaras are exported in large quantities.

Mathura is also popular for its production of lovely glass and wooden beads, which are strung together in various combinations in Rudraksh necklaces (necklaces used in ceremonies to praise Lord Shiva, made with a type of dried seeds). Ferozabad produces fragile and lightweight glass beads.

Indian craftsmen have known the making of silver beads since ancient times. Karnal is known for hollow beads made out of silver. These days beads made out sterling silver is gaining popularity.

Mizoram is known for necklaces and amulets made out of amber beads. The beads used are quiet thick and heavy.

Fancy glass beads, colored glass beads and crafted metal beads are now becoming a part of the jewelry worn by urban women in India. Beads made from semi-precious stones continue to be popular in India. Beads come in an assortment of shapes and colors and at times they are carved also.

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