Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bead Spotlight: Magatamas

Assorted Small Magatama Drop Beads

Traditionally speaking, magatamas are unique comma shaped beads, which date back to the Jomon period of Ancient Japan. The word magatama roughly translates to curved jewel, but the exact symbolism of these beads is unknown. Usually carved from stone and gems, they do bear a strong resemblance to Yin and Yang, and are still considered a distinctly Japanese shape.

Today, most beaders know magatamas as the delightful glass seed beads with off-center holes. There are two styles of magatama seed beads. Long magatamas have a unique, almost leafy shape, with angled holes at one end.

The smaller drop beads have a somewhat pinched shape - they look just like round seed beads that have been pierced too far to one side. Because they perform just like teardrops, but are much more affordable, they are fantastic for bead weaving projects that use large quantities of beads.

Long Magatama Branch Necklace by Caravan Beads

One of the simplest and most fun ways to use magatamas is for adding a hint of texture to a design, like a spiky spiral rope with drops along the center. They are also fantastic for fringe and embellishing - a must have bead for everything from stringing to embroidery. Magatamas come in a variety of colors and finishes, including transparent, lined and frosted.

Here are some fun and easy projects using magatamas and drop seed beads to try, all courtesy of Caravan Beads:

Long Magatama Branch Necklace
Domino Pendant Macrame Necklace
Long Magatama Spiral Bracelet

What’s your favorite way to use them?

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  1. Thanks for that post! I am still learning about all the various beads out there.

    It can get very confusing!

  2. Oh I love those gorgeous little drops! I think an addiction may be forming! ;)

    Happy New Year


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