My aunt gave me a strand of interesting beads that she got at an estate sale. They look like African trade beads to me, but I've seen a lot of trade beads and I've never seen these. If you click on the photos you can look at much larger versions on flickr. If the first one isn't large enough, click on the photo on flickr, go to actions, all sizes, then click the size you want to view.
The strand is about 24 inches long. The long broken bead in the middle is at one side of the strand, opposite the red beads.
I think the red beads are plastic but I'm not sure. The black beads appear to be horn.
The dots on the beads appear metallic. It looks like they were applied. Some aren't flat. If I scrap them with my fingernail they get really shiny like some sort of metal, or metallic paint. The stuff that scraps off looks like some sort of corrosion. If anyone knows what these are please let me know.
update 11/10/10: I posted about these on the wire wrap jewelry list on yahoo and Perri (who has a similar donut and has seen a strand of these belonging to a collector) replied in part: "...The dots are most likely metal rod inlay (yeah, I know - think about the time
and work - AMAZING!)
The drop beads are definitely horn, look at the striations in the small part
next to the hole - this is also how you can tell they are older - because
although they are pretty well kept, they have dried out enough that the
*growth rings* in the horn can be seen easily. When they were new, they were
probably smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom, as were the inlay beads. My
donut is roughly 25 years old, and still smooth."
I think Perri's right. I had wondered how the dots could be so uniform in shape and size. Using rod inlay makes perfect sense. And it explains why they look metallic--they're metal.
Thanks to everyone for their emails and info. And if any reader has more info please comment!