|Seeds were planted for Japan’s current seed bead industry thousands of years ago and this history actually begins in another part of the world. About 1000 B.C., Arikamedu, India was the site of a large glass bead industry. Arikamedu glassmakers created beads using the drawn glass process, later adopted by European glass makers. In this process, approximately one hundred pounds of molten glass was drawn into a “cane”–a thin hollow tube, then cut into tiny pieces and tumbled. The beads manufactured in Arikamedu were similar to seed beads we know today; 3-5mm in size and created in opaque and translucent colors.Through trade, these small beads made their way to Africa, China, Korea, Indonesia and Japan. Vital as currency, these beads also became symbols of power and were woven into textiles, used for embroidery and strung. Many of the Arikamedu glass makers established the first known glass makers’ guilds. Glass masters from these guilds migrated throughout Asia, bringing with them their skills and knowledge of glass, influencing glass making in new regions.|
In the late 19th century, Japanese glassmakers began making blown beads including some from a multiple mold-blowing technique and inaugurated their own glass industry.
The current Japanese seed bead industry, led by three manufacturers and considered by many to be the benchmark for seed beads, has a relatively short history. In 1935, Matsuno was founded, followed by Miyuki beads in 1949 and Toho Beads in 1951. Collectively, Japanese seed bead companies have made a science of creating extraordinarily beautiful seed beads.