These genuine Ancient Egyptian faience and
gold beads dating from the New Kingdom have
been strung on a modern necklace.
Faience, the use of which dates back to pre-
dynastic times, is a glasslike non-clay
substance made of materials common to
Egypt: ground quartz, crushed quartz pebbles,
flint, a soluble salt-like baking soda and lime.
Colour varied the most common colour is blue,
which was achieved through the application of
ground copper. Called tjehnet by the ancient
Egyptians (meaning that which is brilliant or
scintillating) faience was thought to be
endowed with the immortal light of the sun,
moon and stars, and was believed to be
symbolic of rebirth. The associations of faience
were so strong that it is often associated with
burial contexts, guaranteeing some form of
immortality for the deceased. Various objects,
from shabtis to tiny models of household
articles, were commonly made from faience
and placed in the tomb.
Most ancient Egyptian beads were made of
faience, a glass-composite glaze which was
introduced as early as the Pre-Dynastic period.
According to Egyptologists, most beads were
made on an axis, probably of thread, which
would burn up during firing, leaving a hole.
Disc, ring and tubular beads were made by
coating the axis with the unfired body-paste,
rolling the cylinder to an even diameter on a
flat surface, and then scoring it with a knife
into sections of the desired length. Other
shapes, such as ball beads, were rolled
between the hands and perforated while still
wet with a stiff point such as a wire needle.
The beads were then dried, coating with glaze
(if the glaze had not already been mixed with
the paste), and fired. The firing process often
gave the beads a beautiful translucent quality.
The majority of faience beads are blue or
green in color, but black, red yellow and white
ones were also produced, especially in the New
The Ancient Egyptians believed the wedjat eye
was the most powerful protection against evil.
Ever-vigilant against bad luck and misfortune,
the symbolic eye of the god Horus was worn
by king and peasant alike. Though the eye was
sometimes fashioned in gold and precious
stones, it was thought to be at its most
powerful when colored blue. The tradition of
blue amulets guarding against harm is a very
ancient one. Throughout the Mediterranean
world today, one sees beads and talismans of
bright blue, which are meant to avert the evil
eye of bad luck. In Egypt, peasants dip the
palm of their hands in blue paint and press
their palms against the sides of their houses.
When the Egyptian Empire was at its glorious
height, this faience eye of the god Horus was
worn by some long-forgotten person to bring
good fortune and luck. Much has changed in
the world since then, but the power of this
talisman remains strong and benevolent as
always. Whoever wears it today in its golden
frame will surely benefit from its ancient magic