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The Fichtelgebirge Bead and Button Industry of Bavaria

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Venice and Bohemia are generally considered to be the principal bead manufacturers of Europe. Yet Germany, especially the Fichtelgebirge region of northeastern Bavaria, produced large quantities of glass beads for the world market beginning in the 15th century, if not even earlier, and continued to do so well into the 20th century. The Fichtelgebirge industry is especially notable for two things: 1) the utilization of furnace-winding technology which, based on our current knowledge, was not employed to a significant degree elsewhere in Europe during the post-medieval period, and 2) the localized use of Proterobas, a greenish igneous rock, to produce opaque black beads and buttons without any additives until the early 19th century. This article presents a history of the industry and describes the products and the technology involved. It also provides a preliminary assessment of the chemical composition of the various products.

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The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.

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