Glass bead making in china dates back some 18,000 years. First used as a substitute for the more costly jade an other precious stones, by the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912AD), glass bead making had developed into a mature industry and beads began to travel the world as 'Peking' glass.
Of the older examples shown here, most are from the mid 1800's. The 'court lady' beads come from the period of Manchurian rule when sumptuary laws dictated exactly what could and could not be worn as apparel and ornamentation, based on social and political rank. (It has been suggested that these beads were worn by the emperor's concubines). We also have some newer beads from the earlier part of the 20th century.