I have been collecting Trade beads for 20 plus years. During the past 2 years since starting my jewelry business "Bev's Beadz", I have been asked that question more times than I care to remember. It puzzles me as to why people don't know this? Were you absent that day in grade school ? Do the schools no longer teach that? I remember learning about beads and how they were once used as currency hundreds of years ago. It was the barter system. We didn't always have coins and dollar bills! Millions of beads were once produced in Venice, Italy and made their way to Western Africa where they were traded for gold, palm oil, slaves, etc. We're talking real history here folks. When you visit my website bevsbeadz.com and browse my jewelry, you're not buying some shiny, glitzy beads from the local craft shop, you are getting a real piece of history. Trade Bead Jewelry....antiques you wear!