Early Cherokee beads were carved from shells, stones, wood, animal bones, and other readily available natural materials. The glass beads brought by Europeans quickly became part of Native American culture. Because beads were a common trade item since ancient times, it is not surprising to see abalone shells from the west coast in early Cherokee beadwork.
Today, fine glass seed beads are the primary materials for traditional bead-workers of the Cherokee and many other tribes. Beads are commonly applied to leather or made into strands and are used in creating jewelry, moccasins, belts, and sashes. Beading strands and beading onto leather are complicated, time-consuming, and delicate tasks which require many years of practice to master.