Trade beads were by no means created equal. The most coveted were the sky blue Padre beads, glass beads originally made in China and then, in later years, in Italy. However, other beads were commonly used by the Arapaho and the other tribes for trade and decoration. These beads all had names attached to them that were given to them for their history or because of their color.
The Mountain Men called them:
- Ponies (an 8 foot string of these medium-sized Padre beads could be traded for a pony)
- Padres (named after the Spanish Fathers, or Padres, who first brought them to the Native Americans)
The primary beads used by Arapaho women for decoration were the seed, Pony, and Crow beads.
- Made of drawn glass, seed beads were under 2.0 mm
- Pony or pound beads were “wound” and between 2 and 4 mm
- Crow bead were also “wound” and were 4 to 10 mm in diameter
The larger Crow & Pony beads were carried by Lewis and Clark and since they were too large for fine needlework, Crow and Pony beads were hung from or attached to clothing and horse gear. There is no evidence of seed beads being at the Mountain Man Rendezvous between 1825-1840 and prior to their appearance on the Plains, quills from porcupine were commonly used for fine needlework. (Quillwork is a relatively new art form that ollfowed the introduction of horses when Plains Indians were able to spend more time in one place.)
The most coveted beads were:
- Hudson Bay Sky-blue Padre Bead from China
- Dutch Chevron Beads (called American Flag beads)
- Hudson Bay Russian Blues
- Hudson Bay Whitehearts
- Glass Beads from Murano & Venice, Italy
- Venetian Glass four, six & seven layer Chevron Beads
In 1700 trade, the favorite beads were, beside the “piece of the sky” blue Padre beads, the Czechoslovakian glass and Millefiores.
In 1800 trade, the list had changed:
- Christmas Beads
- Red Feather Beads
- Crow Beads
- Yellow Jackets Chevron Beads