January 7, 2015

Millefiori, which literally translates to “thousand flowers,” is a motif that dates back thousands of years. Originally used in early glass and tile making, the design became a natural motif in bead making. The method for making millefiori is at once a decorative and manufacturing process and has been used in a number of different media. Millefiore is often grouped with mosaic glassmaking, although the manufacturing technique is similar, the two motifs are very distinct. Millefiori is a flower motif that dates back to the 1st-3rd centuries BCE and mosaic motifs are geometric and figurative that date back to the 15th century BCE.

Lois Sherr Dubin discusses the symbolic and cultural nature of beads in History of Beads from 30,000 BC to the Present (New York: Harry H. Abrams, Inc., 1987). Beautifully illustrated, this book shows an abundance of beads from all over the world. Graphics include a map of the Roman World; distribution of bead and bead materials from 1 BCE to 1 CE; bead migration; and a time line of bead history. The writing is ambiguous: millefiori, mosaic, and eye beads are lumped together when they are three significantly different styles. The graphics are more informative than the text.

Gustave E. Pazaurec shows how beads were used in fashion and craft in Glasperien und Perlenarbeiten in Alter und Neuer Zeit (Darmstadt: A. Koch, 1911). Pazaurek enables the reader to see beads in historic context; it contains only a brief discussion of millefiore beads with pictures of Roman beads.

Flowers weave through the natural trellis in handmade paper. Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

Flowers weave through the natural trellis in handmade paper. Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

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