Perhaps the most recognizable category of antique American Indian art is Plains and Plateau beadwork. Beginning in the 18th Century, glass beads imported primarily from Italy quickly became one of the most desirable Euro-American trade items. Known as "Trade Beads," they rapidly replaced porcupine and bird quills as they were easier to work with and came in a wide variety of colors and sizes. 

Material from the mid-19th Century can often be difficult to attribute to a specific tribe. As the century progressed, tribal distinctions based on function, design, color use and especially beading techniques became more apparent and entrenched; with each group creating a stunning array of items showcasing their unique interpretations on classic themes.