27 Jul 2023
by Sue Heaser

I am an independent researcher investigating the beautiful glass beads found in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. While most beads are from the Anglo-Saxon period, many Roman and Iron Age beads are also found so my research covers all these periods. Glass beads are the costume jewellery of the times and Anglo-Saxon beads are particularly beautiful - large, colourful and flamboyant, and there are many different designs and types. 


I have studied and practised a large variety of crafts and jewellery-making techniques in my career, from silversmithing and enamelling to metal and polymer clays. But for this research, I use my hot glass bead-making skills to work out how the different types of bead were made, using tools available at the time. Working in hot glass has been a steep learning curve but I enjoy it enormously - I love melting the colourful glass and learning the techniques that have been practised for millennia. I also visit many museums, local and national, to photograph the beads and find types that have not been noticed before. Museum archives are a treasure trove of delights!


I have been particularly thrilled to discover that many of the beads must have been made locally - we had a wonderful indigenous bead-making craft industry in Britain. But the Anglo-Saxons also imported beads from as far away as the Middle East - in particular the beautiful millefiori beads made from Roman times. Those are some of the hardest to replicate, but are particularly fascinating with their tiny chips of complex patterns sunk into the glass.

I am now working hard on putting all my findings into a major book that should be published soon. Then I can share all my fascinating discoveries to a wider audience.



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Sue Heaser

The Glass Bead Archaeology Studio

Sue Heaser is an author, illustrator and teacher with a lifelong interest in the jewellery arts. Her career began in archaeology - working as a Finds Assistant for the Museum of London and then as an illustrator for English Heritage, drawing ancient jewellery from all over Britain. She is accomplished in a wide variety of jewellery-making techniques including silversmithing, enamelling and lampwork as well as metal clay and polymer clay. Her project and technique books have been published all over the world and in many languages. Sue is currently researching the Anglo-Saxon beads of Britain and lectures on the subject at museums and universities.

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