Beads are small decorative objects that have a see-through hole, they have been witnessed dating back to three thousand years and are one of the oldest forms of art. In earlier days they were also used for trade purposes. The very early manufacture of beads is accounted to be in Europe and the use of beads was most observed in West Africa, as neckpieces, bracelets and more. There are various shaped beads- spheres, oval, tube-shaped, square or even cube and seed beads (that is called for uniformly spheroidal beads). Antique beads are of great importance as it helps to study the composition and the sources used earlier to make beads. The beads are often seen with ornamental qualities and are made out of various media. They are seen in various forms and sizes ranging from a millimeter to a centimeter in materials such as stone, shell, wood, bone, plastic, glass or pearl. Beads are known for their decorative assets, they are used as jewellery and embellishment for clothing mostly.
Beads in India have played a vital role. There is a constant movement in the field of bead making, trading and the use of beads. There are various ancient centers in India for bead making and its trades. These centers have produced beads, gems and valuable ornaments which have been evidenced to be exported to distant places. Among the various materials used for making beads, there is an emergent demand for glass beads. One of the interesting places where talks of glass bead making and transporting in particular witnessed are Arikamedu, Puducherry, where the presence of Roman and Tamilnadu trade relation is observed. The presence of beads dates back to Roman times. Glass beads out of all the other kinds of beads are a good sign of trade and spread of bead making knowledge. Over the years bead making has transformed and bead making at present is carried out in bulk production where it includes machinery work mostly. Glass beads are manufactured in many ways, there are more than three methods where one can adopt to produce beads, among which are handmade beads, pressed beads and tube grinding method. One of the well-known glass beads manufacturers is Banaras Beads Limited, a government recognized export house, in Varanasi. The company is in the business and has grown over the last ten years. It stands out among all the others and is the biggest in the trade. The company has well-equipped machines that carry out standard performance and quality maintenance is ensured. The company is specialized in manufacturing fashion jewellery and all other types of related accessories. The beads are made by tube cutting or glass melting ways that go through washing and getting polished after. There are numerous kinds of beads produced and they have multiple cards displaying the variety of beads. There are Bugle beads, Chatons, Crystal beads, Delica beads, Faceted beads, flatbacks, Hex cut and more.
The beads are polished, faceted or matt finished, they come in various sizes, and some are hand-painted with imported acrylic colors. Beads are available in shades of opaque, transparent, luster, rainbow and pastel colors. The artist paints on the beads with a thin brush, another way is that the glass rods are melted and rolled to form a bead, and another rod is heated and the bead is decorated without actually having to paint on it. There are several handicrafts that are seen at Varanasi among which Banaras beads are well-known and are exported to foreign countries as well. The technique that is seen at Varanasi is called lamp winding making it stand out in which glass is altered to rods. They are melted at a small source of heat generally a hand torch or bench burner that looks similar to a lamp hence the name lamp winding. The glass is wound onto the mandrel and is shaped when it is still hot, the beads are decorated with the help of glass sticks. The price range and the quality of beads are maintained to retain strength in the business. The Banaras Beads Limited exports beads to European countries- Germany, United Kingdom, Russia and also to South Africa and USA. Beads are available at markets as strings and also at loose. Price ranges from INR 90 to INR 1900 per kilogram. Few facet designs are inspired by the diamond cuts. Bead sticking powders are used to attach the beads to the facets machine which is locally called as Chapari (mix of resin). Emery powder (Aluminium oxide), Sulphuric acid and nitric acid are used while polishing and washing beads. 700 to 800 employees work at Banaras Beads Ltd and the company also focuses on the welfare of women. Earlier about the beads, they were only plain round beads. Now there are countless shapes and forms. New colors and designs are adapted. There are endless designs to follow. The colors that are not available within the country are imported from China in order not to lose the orders and to satisfy and sustain the orders. In this way, the business of beads is saved and ongoing.