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Strand of Mixed Early Islamic Glass Eye Beads from Mauritania or Mali - Rita Okrent Collection (AG226)

A very special 36 inch long strand of beautiful mixed antique and ancient Islamic period eye beads, found in Mauritania and Mali, specifically in the caravan towns of Timbuktu, Mopti, Djenne and Gao. They vary in design and wear, and iridescence and are from the Islamic Period.


Glass eye beads have circular decorations that look like an eye, and are produced using lamp work, inset or mosaic techniques. Eye beads have been very much valued for centuries, actually they still are, among not only Islamic people but also African people as they were regarded as strong amulets to avert the evil eye and for their alleged prophylactic and magical properties.


100 beads/36+ inches of beads on this strand. Bead sizes range from 8-14mm.  Bead hole size varies, but averages approximately 2mm.

Lots of variety on this strand. A bead with raised yellow eyes, a few non-eye beads (though also antique), 2 possibly newer beads,  a few beads with wear such that eyes do not show well. Several outstanding blue and white eye clean eye beads and several beads in green or blue with yellow eyes. Most beads are in good condition.  The mix and level of wear and damage is accommodated for in pricing. Lots to work with in your jewelry designs. Suitable for necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.

As per bead expert, Jamey Allen: Islamic Period beads are ca. 1000 years old. Dating from between ca CD 900-1200. They might be as early as CE 700, and as late as 1400. In 1400, Western Asian glass industries were destroyed by Tamerlane. And soon after, Egypt desisted as well. This is when Venice stepped in and became the glassmaker for all of Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

As bead researcher and expert, Robert K. Liu writes in Ornament Magazine: “The term Islamic Period Glass Beads is used, similarly to Roman Period Beads, to classify groups of ornaments from specific geographic areas and time periods, with recognizable characteristics including patterns and techniques. In the case of Islamic glass beads we know they originated in the Middle East and flourished mostly between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Their designs display a wide mix of techniques and styles: millefiori/mosaic (including pierced mosaic pad beads), trailed, filigreed, combed, fused rods, segmented/blown, folded (an Islamic innovation, Holland and Holland 2006) and those derived from amulet shapes, like charm case beads with loops.”Islamic glass beads traveled from their sources of production in the Middle and Near East together with the expansion of Islam to North Africa, Southern Europe (Spain), India and the Far East and they reached areas well beyond Islam’s actual limits of expansion such as Northern Europe. They also flowed into Sub-Saharan Africa, where they were valued and cherished for centuries in the Malian ancient kingdoms as a symbol of status and played an important role in the communities’ rites and ceremonies such a burials, initiation or dowries.


Ancient Glass Item 226

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