The art of bead etching most probably began in the Indus Valley Civilization. Indians were the first to etch beads with soda, and from there the art spread along the trade routes to other countries.

Displayed below you can see etched Indus Valley beads from Pakistan.

The beads
are for sale

through bead ID
for price

EB 1 -  13 * 11 * 5 mm

EB 3  -     12 * 4,5 mm
This bead is actually not  etched,
but displays natural lines in
jasper stone.

The wonderful etched eye bead to the left is designed in the rare double ax form. This design is even older than the designs from the Indus Valley culture. They can in West Asia
be dated back to the Neolithic period.


EB  1 - 12,5 * 4,9 mm


These ball beads are all made in high quality. The etching itself is made with great care and delicacy. Note the thickness of the patterns, especially in the bead above.
Furthermore, these beads display a good contrast between the etching and the ground color of the surface. Etched beads are generally evaluated from the quality of line making and the contrast between the base ground and the etching.

The patterns must also be taken into consideration. Are they rare and exiting? Displayed below is an oval shaped bead
with an etching, done nicely, but not perfect. What makes this bead stand out is the rarity of patterns. The front of bead displays a rare variation on the typical cruciform. The backside has a pattern I have not seen on any other bead.

The shape of the bead itself is equally important. This bead is with its perfect oval shape with the round front and its flat backside, unique.
Ancient, but never used



EB  2
15 * 13 * 4,5 mm


This flattened oval bead has not been used. Due to its perfect look some 'bead-experts' have stated that this bead is new and not ancient. However, iron oxide from the carnelian itself has penetrated the etching on the backside of the bead. This closes any further discussion since it takes 'ancient' time for this process to happen. Furthermore, the bead displays a wonderful excavation patina. Most probably it is a burial casket bead never meant to be used.
Compared to the ball beads above its hole is quite small as compared to the generally big holes in the ball beads above. My guess is that it is origins from the end of the heydays of Greater Buddhist India. As I have previously stated, the pattern most probably is a part of a Buddhist sign language, similar to the Buddha's mudras. As in the case with the mudras, these patterns slowly grow more complex as time goes by.


EB  3 - 16 * 8 mm - SOLD



EB 4 - 14,5 * 8 mm




Black decoration
eads with black etching are more rare. In this process the entire bead it seems is flushed with soda to make it white like you can observe in EB 20 & 21. Then the patterns are etched, not with soda, but with a solution of iron or manganese compound which leaves decoration on the white surface. (Indian Beads, S. B. Deo, p. 18)

EB   - 11 * 6,5 mm - SOLD

EB  - 11 * 7 mm - SOLD


Barrel shaped beads with white lines

These 3 large wonderful beads (EB 26-28) were sourced from Burma.

EcthedIndus 1 - 19 * 8 mm

Zoom in


 EB  26 -  29 * 15 mm  (Brm 28)


EB  29 - 21 * 10 mm

EB 30 - 19 * 7 mm


 EB 31  - 18,5 * 4,5 * 8 mm

EB  32 - 17 * 5 mm - SOLD


EB  33 - 16,5 * 7 mm

EB  34 - 15 * 7,5 mm



EB 35  - 15 * 7 mm

 EB  36 -  14 * 6,5 mm


EB  37 - 14 * 7 mm - SOLD

EB 38  - 14 * 7 mm - SOLD


 EB  39 - 13 * 5 mm

EB 40  - 15 * 7 mm


EB 41  - 13 * 8 mm

EB 42 - 12 * 8 mm



EB  43 - 11 * 5,5 mm

 EB  44 - 10 * 4 mm


EB 45 - 10 * 4 mm

EB 46 - 6 * 5 mm


EB  47 - 5 * 4 mm


 EB 22  -  14 * 7,5 mm - SOLD


 EB 23  -  14 * 7 mm - SOLD


 EB 24  -  12 * 6,7 mm - SOLD


 EB 25 -  13 * 5 mm - SOLD


More designs and shapes


 EB 48  -  15 * 9 mm

The bead displayed above was sourced from Burma. It has a typical Burma pattern. However it could be found anywhere within the ancient Buddhist kingdom of greater India. Beads are great travellers.




Above 3 etched beads from Burma with typical Burma design

 EB 52 -  14 * 7 mm - SOLD

EB 53 -   17 * 7 mm


EB 54  -  11 * 6 mm

EB 55  - 
10 * 6 mm



EB 56  -  8 * 4 mm

 EB 57  -  7 * 6 mm



EB 58 -  10 * 7 * 4 mm


 a little black bead with an unusual dot-pattern
On the bead to the right one can observe the ancient infinity sign



EB 59 -  5 mm



Most probably the small white dots were made to serve as protective eyes. Ancient beads were used, not only as decoration,
but as amulets. Sourced from Nepal.

Displayed below you can see examples of etched beads ranging from high quality to the lowest, starting from the left bead below and ending with the many beads displayed as a lot in the photo in the bottom:

EB  67 -  11 * 7 mm


EB  68 -  7 mm

EB  69 -   6mm


EB 70 -   7,5 mm

EB 70  -  10 mm


EB  71 -  15 * 7 mm - SOLD TO HERVE

EB 72 -   13 * 6 mm


EB 73

You will find the etched Pumtek Beads on this link. They are so typically Burmese that I chose to display them on the Burmese Beads page.


This is the only etched red jasper bead I have ever seen. They must be extremely rare. The etching itself is not made by painting the stone with soda but is made by a kind of Pietre Dure inlay with a kind of white stone material. I would be interested if you, dear visitor, have any comments.

Etched 12 striped carnelian bead with earth-oil patina

EBB  75  -   63 * 10,5 mm - Click on picture for larger image


Military beads?

This ancient carnelian Pyu bead has been colored by oil, gas, and pressure. You can read more about it here. On the internet, these kinds of beads are presented as military beads. I find it odd that a peaceful Buddhist culture like the Pyu's would have so many beads with military symbols. Stripes on beads, especially carnelian beads, are found everywhere in Greater India. The stripes most probably indicate animistic magic properties in a Buddhist context. However, particular this bead is typical for Burma and not for India.

Etched Carnelian with 4 stripes

EBB  76  -  29 * 15 m


Etched Carnelian with 5 stripes

EBB  77  -  31 * 11 mm

Most probably many of these etched carnelian beads have traveled between India and Burma with Buddhist monks and traders more than 1000 years ago. They were found in Matehtilay, Maline.
Burma embraced Theravadan Buddhism, influenced from Thailand around 1050. These artifacts, however, show the strong and direct Indian cultural influence during the times of the Pyu City states from 200 B.C. to around 1000 A.D.

Note the different translucent shine in the bead below and compare it with the carnelian above. The 12 striped bead is according to my experience made of typical Burma carnelian.

Striped Burmese Ball Beads


EBB  80  -  15 mm


EBB  82  -  9,5 mm

EBB  83  -  9 mm


EBB  84  -  10 mm

EBB  85  -  10 m


EBB  86 8,3 mm



EBB  88  -  7,5 mm

EBB  89  -  10 mm


EBB  90  -  8 mm

EBB  91  -  8 mm


EBB  92  -  7 mm

EBB  93 8 mm


EBB  94  -  10 mm

EBB  95  -  7,5 mm


EBB  96  -  8,5 mm

EBB  97 7,5 mm


EBB  98  -  9 * 8 mm



EBB  100  -  Upper: 21 * 10 mm
Click on picture for larger image


EBB  101  - 
13 * 3,5 mm

EBB  102  -   11 mm

Here you can observe a primitive etching on beads with poorly crafted forms. I showed the photo of these beads to some expert bead hunters in Burma. They called these beads 'village beads'. They said that they in their bead hunting had observed a great difference between beads found in ancient city areas and in village areas. It seems that the custom of poor people copying the finer crafted rich man's city beads in these more crude forms was widespread.

Largest bead upper left: 11 mm

Nowadays one has to be extremely careful when purchasing etched beads. One of the etched beads displayed above is most probably a fake. The bead itself is old, but the etching is new. Can you identify the bead? Here are some more examples of new etchings made on old beads:


As a general rule new etchings are thin, almost transparent, as one can clearly see in the beads above. Often one can observe how the new etching follows the old marks in the beads in a way that it would not do if the etching was as old as the bead itself. Note the way how the etching follows the crack in the lower left corner of the bead displayed below:



If the etching is as old as the bead itself, the lines would have disappeared in there areas where later small damages occur, as you can see in the bead below:


New etchings are also done in low quality. Today it is possible to copy a village bead, but very difficult to fake a high-quality city bead. In most cases a genuine etched bead will show signs of age patina in the etchings itself, as you can observe clearl