The Jewelry Collection of the Museum of Beadwork is made up of a wide array of necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets as well as other more artistic pieces which push the boundaries of ornamentation. We select items which represent cultures and people from around the globe, choosing artistically significant and unique examples from prehistory into the present. Contemporary artists are continuing to develop new forms of beaded jewelry which push the boundaries of functionality and personal expression.
The first evidence of beads for personal adornment are the famous Nassarius shell beads, found in Es Skhūl, Israel from 98,000 B.C.E. Since then, humans have been using other materials for adornment such as bone, wood, stone, ivory, coral, and more. Jewelry has served an important role in our material behaviors as humans, and serves a purpose unique to individuals, families, and entire ethnic groups. Jewelry has been used to signify class, rank, cast, gender, wealth, power, and a myriad of other social indicators. It can also be used to inform others about identity through personal presentation without verbal communication. Jewelry making can be classified into handicrafts jewelry and jewelry as a product of domestic, or household production. The latter, sometimes in beadwoven form, has been predominantly seen as women's work and undervalued in artistic worth. The objects in our Jewelry collection are intended to elevate the artistry of beadwork and celebrate the stories that jewelry creates.
Butterfly Kisses by Cynthia Rutledge