Every Bead Tells a Story

Some of the most beautiful vintage glass beads to collect and wear come from mid-century Japan. In particular, the Cherry Brand label produced gorgeous little gems, each a mini-masterpiece in opaque and transparent colors, dimpled and smooth surfaces. What is the story behind these beads?

The Miriam Haskell Company

The beads arrived in America thanks to the efforts of the Miriam Haskell Company. Miriam Haskell began her company in 1926 and was one of a handful of women who found success running a jewelry business at the time. Working with her chief designer, Frank Hess, she was known for extravagant and colorful beaded designs. Before World War II, Haskell traveled to Europe to bring back the highest quality beads and materials. During the war, the designer turned to plastic and natural components due to supply disruptions and shortages. By the early 1950s, glass beads returned to Haskell jewelry. However, these beads now came from Japan instead of Europe. 

Cherry Brand Beads

How did this switch in suppliers happen? It is unclear how Miriam Haskell and her company discovered Japanese glass beads, and in particular Cherry Brand beads. Two factors may have helped Haskell become aware of these beautiful beads. First, Matsuwaka Glass and Pearl Works Corporation, located in Izumi, was one of the first companies in Japan to export their beads. Beginning in 1921, they began selling overseas under the label Cherry Brand. The company used the Cherry Brand label for export from 1921 to 1993 (with trade suspended during WWII). Cherry Brand beads may have been known to Haskell, and become a new source for her after the war. Second, after World War II, the Americans occupied Japan and promoted Japanese exports across many industries. Perhaps this push helped introduce Haskell to glass beads from Japan. This promotion may have helped the Matsuwaka Corporation begin its export business again, or perhaps it began exporting beads soon after the occupation. 


The American occupation ended in 1952, and during this time, or shortly thereafter, the Haskell Company bought boxes and boxes of beads with the Cherry brand label. The Haskell Company had enough Cherry Brand beads for chief designer Frank Hess to use in many creations of the 1950s. Long after a change in ownership, new designers at the company created designs with these beads in the 1990s. In the late 1990s, the Haskell Company auctioned off its old stock, including a large collection of Cherry Brand beads.

Are vintage Cherry Brand beads available at present? Jewelry supply companies and individual collectors bought up the beads when they were auctioned off. You can find the beads through sellers who specialize in vintage stock.

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