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Antique and Vintage Beads, Part 1: Czech Glass

By July 1, 2009

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This is the first in a series of blog posts that I have planned all about a favorite passion of mine - antique and vintage beads. This first post is all about vintage Czech glass beads.

A trend that I have been happily following lately is the use of vintage and antique beads in beadwork. For years, I’ve been fascinated with these, and I’ve accumulated quite a collection of my own.

A small sample of my vintage Czech bead collection

To start talking about vintage and antique beads, we need to define the difference between “vintage” and “antique”. While there is no complete agreement on the terms, anything that is 100 years old or more is considered an antique and anything less than 100 years old (but more than 25 years old) is considered to be vintage.

The most common type of vintage glass bead around is the Czech glass bead. The Czech Republic has a long history of making glass beads, going back to the year 1200. At first, factories in the cities of Jablonec, Stanovsko and Bedrichov made glass beads mostly for the rosaries for the largely Catholic population. But then around 1550 when costume jewelry came into fashion, these bead makers started making glass beads to be incorporated into the jewelry of the working class.

In the 19th century, new machines were developed that allowed thousands of identical beads to be created at the same time through the use of molds and presses. Czech glass bead manufacturers still use similar methods today to make the luscious pressed glass beads that are so popular with beadweavers and jewelry makers.

The Czech bead industry declined in the early 1930’s due to the Great Depression and did not recover until the late 1950’s, when after World War II the new Communist government of the Czech Republic was searching for goods to export.

So how can you tell if it a Czech glass bead is vintage? There are a few ways to tell. First of all, if it is a large or unusual shape, chances are it is a vintage Czech glass beads. Most modern Czech glass beads are smaller than their 1920’s counterparts. Color is also another way to tell. Many vintage Czech glass beads are made with deep, muted colors, very often in swirls and random patterns.

If you are unsure if a Czech glass bead is vintage, ask someone who knows. There are several great sources on the web for purchasing vintage Czech glass, and their knowledgeable staff might just be able to help you determine if your bead is vintage or not.

The Beadin’ Path of Freeport, Maine sells a wide variety of vintage beads and findings, including Czech glass, Lucite, chain and Swarovski crystals. They also offer free shipping on all orders over $25 and their stock is constantly changing.

Earthly Adornments is another favorite place of mine to get vintage beads and components. They also sell vintage jewelry, accessories and collectibles and have a great selection of vintage beads made from glass, Bakelite and crystal.

A necklace made with vinage Czech glass beads and a handmade enamel frog pendant

Look for a beaded necklace project coming soon using vintage Czech glass beads and Swarovski crystals.


The Beadin’ Path

Earthly Adornments


July 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm
(1) m.j. says:

this is great. i am hoping to hear about steel cut beads. i have some of these, however a lot of them have rust on them. i have been trying for years to find out how to get the rust off, with no success. maybe this will be the place where i finally learn what to do.

July 6, 2009 at 3:16 pm
(2) saba.h says:

As a beader and collector of antique jewelery I am very happy to see this article. I am incorporating antique and vintage beads into my jewelry,beaded and metal for many yeras now because of it’s beauty and sometimes unique look, I just can’t resist them.

July 7, 2009 at 11:12 am
(3) Donna says:

I’ just g;ad that you are doing some teaching for newbies like me!

July 7, 2009 at 11:21 am
(4) Joan says:

Two sites you should know if you like vintage beads:



July 14, 2009 at 3:54 am
(5) kelly says:

San Francisco Arts & Crafts has an extensive collection on line and at their store in sonoma, ca. They have been around for 35 years!

February 23, 2011 at 11:16 am
(6) a. Aster says:

I have found few vintage 34″ single strand light blue 6mm bead necklaces on http://instantfinder.com/VintageWay. It has no clasp as it will fit easily over one’s head. This simple necklaces are from the 1960s as they claim. It features a single strand over the head type, long enough to double loop or tie in knot.
Is there a way to check it’s age?

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