Beads are the earliest and most important artifact made by early humans from the stand point of tracking evolution.
The earliest known beads, found in Morocco dating from 110,000 BCE, are Nassarius shells, pierced, colored with ochre, and showing sign of wear. These shell beads are significant in that they represent symbolic thinking, the creation of an object beyond what is necessary for survival. It is thought that these amulets were used for protection, status and/or adornment, the same purpose that beads are still used in many cultures today.
Bead making created the first technological advance made by humans, the invention of faience in the 5th millenium BCE. It was a quasi glass made from a combination of soda ash and quartz that could be readily formed into beads and other small objects.
Mesopotamia developed true glass around 3500 BCE largely replacing natural objects for beads. Ease of production led to a huge increase in availability. Subsequently a robust trade developed throughout the known world, existing until present time.
My jewelry designs, composed of multi-cultural beads from the paleolithic era up through the 20th c., present a startling asymmetry and amuletic energy.