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Original Message:   Hi Jake...
...good to see you here. Thanks for the kind words; these posts are one of my ways of figuring things out for myself.

I'm fairly certain that all (or almost all) the beads that really have been carved are fakes made in the early 1990s or later. At the same time, there's a large number of beads that look as though the pattern has been incised into them, when what has actually happened is that the enamel impressed into the glass has been loosened around the edges or has fallen out altogether. I doubt if any beads were carved in antiquity, but if some were (rather like the occasional Samon Valley bead where the patterned carnelian has been carved and filled rather than etched) I'm sure it was a technique that would have died out quickly because it was uneconomical and cumbersome.

How does one tell the difference between the genuine bead and the modern fake that uses an ancient bead as its base? I guess the only foolproof way would be through a chemical analysis of the material that the pattern is made from (glass or enamel or, in the case of the fakes, a hardened paste of some sort). Absent that, I exclude any bead where the pattern does not look as though it has been applied in liquid form, where the design appears rigid rather than fluid. I may miss a few genuine beads by doing that, but I save myself from going through a long process of yes, no, maybe.

Here's a pic of a guardian figure outside a village near Malang in East Java. It dates from the thirteenth century, a good seven hundred years after the bird beads were made. Notice the skull ear ornaments and the snake that winds around his body and sticks its head out from under his armpit.

All the best,

WILL

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