I've always been fond of tassels, lariats, tie backs and fripperies. But the old beaded tassels hold a special place in my heart. They represent an enormous amount of work for one thing, and if you are lucky enough to lay hands on some of the really old ones, the beads are amazing to behold.
Take, for instance, these antique jet tassels. Not only do the large faceted nailheads set these apart, but the lavish detail on the center tassel with its structured and layered "cap" is amazing. Look closer, though, and you'll see the real stars of the show are the tiny seed beads themselves: no mass-manufactured beads are used here...irregular in size, facets and count, they keep the eye moving throughout the composition, pulling it along with their anthem to irregularity.
In this picture you can see even better the tiny seed beads, plus the larger and even more irregular accent beads. Here, each strand has been terminated in a little loop of seed beads. The cut on the accent beads no longer exists; probably the closest we come to it nowadays is in the resurgence of the lovely and rustic English cut that is enjoying a revival of sorts.
Here you have a closer look at the mercury glass lined beads on the silvery tassels, and off to the right, some darker pyrite colored ones. A bit more contemporary, perhaps 80-90 years old, you already see more conformity in the bead shape, size and length that came with mechanization in the new century.
When of sound construction, I like to use tassels in my jewelry, but be forewarned that old thread can be fragile. They may better serve as inspiration for you to create your own. Be on the lookout for antique beads, damaged garments, ornaments and decor where you can salvage them, a very worthy endeavor indeed.