One sure sign of spring is the bazaar of the Bead Society of Greater Washington.
For 16 years, that two-day affair has drawn thousands to the Silver Spring Armory. There is no mistaking the event. We even spotted a Virginia car with a vanity plate that declared QN BEAD.
Beads are a big business. Three bead stores have opened in Baltimore during this deep recession and are seemingly doing great business. And Baltimore's bead society is planning to have its first bazaar next year.
Eighty-seven exhibitors came to the Silver Spring event. They had names such as Bead Happy, Lost Cities, Hands of the Hill, Touch the Earth, Out of Africa, Fantasy Beads and Urban Nomad.
African bead work, from West Africa's Yoruba to the Ndebele and Zulu beads of Southern Africa, seemed to be a growing trend. Afghan jewelry also was popular, as was American Indian. (To those with questions, a special Bead ID table had been set up to provide the answers).
The English word "bead" comes from the Old English biddan (to pray), referring to the beads of the rosary. Many of the ancient bead works may have religious or symbolic meaning, but much of the contemporary items are purely decorative.
The number of books and periodicals on beads was impressive. So was the visible variety of beaders, who seemed to be a cross-section of age and ethnic groups. Undoubtedly many of them will be back for the autumn bead bazaar at the Silver Spring Armory Oct. 3 and 4.