A number of beaded bags from the early 17th century survive. Their stylised floral patterns and less expensive materials imitate the elaborate embroidered versions carried by the aristocracy. Many bear mottos or expressions relating to charity, friendship or luck, which suggests that they may have been used for gifts of money. This example is inscribed 'the gift of a frend'.
The development of the 'drawn-glass' technique about 1490 allowed the manufacture of large numbers of small, round, coloured beads with a central hole, of the type used in this purse. The glassworks on the island of Murano near Venice were the most famous during the Renaissance, but by the early 17th century the technology had spread to glass-making centres in Amsterdam and Bavaria. Beads were produced mainly for trade with North America and Africa, but they were also sold in Europe for use in embroidery.