Traditional Ghanaian (Ashanti) Glass Bead Necklace
Beads have played an enormous role in the culture, fashion, economy and artistic expression of the African people. Today, they are cherished by collectors, jewelry makers, and everyday people who just love wearing African beads! African tribal beads and glass beads also hold a special mythical significance as well.
Beads and Beadmaking have a long history in Africa. Beads have been made by indigenous Africans for thousands of years. In ancient times Egyptians, Greeks, and Indians established trading bases in East Africa and eventually the Arabs invaded in the eighth century and established trade routes with the wealthy kingdom of Ghana in modern day Mauritania.
The modern production of beads is in some sense a family tradition where tools and techniques are passed from one generation to the next. Beadmaking is a labor-intensive process and since many beads are handmade, this leads to variability in the appearance of individual beads even within a single strand. Production of beads is distributed throughout many countries on the African continent however the Hausa people of West Africa are particularly known for dominating the bead trade where they travel extensively to locate beads in villages, modify many beads, and sell them to local and foreign merchants.
African Beads are made from a diverse array of materials. Some of the oldest beads were made from natural materials such as stones, clay, plant materials such as doum palm nuts and bamboo stems, animal materials such as ostrich eggshells, bones such as the Bank Batik Bone bead of Kenya, buffalo horn, and marine shells such as the Conus. These materials continue to be used today. Similarly, metal beads have been made from gold, bronze, and brass especially in West African countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, and Senegal.
The uses of beads in Africa are as varied as the materials used to make them. Beadwork is very popular in many African nations and is integrated into many art forms including clothing such as the stand-out collars of the Maasai tribe, headdresses and belts, wooden sculptures, small leather amulets, and a myriad of jewelry items where beads are regarded as items of wealth, power, and status. Because of their long history, beads continue to play a role in many traditional rites and ceremonies such as coming-of-age, circumcision, marriage, burial, and local festivals.
PLEASE NOTE: Because the traditional beads are made by hand, no bead pattern is the same. Moreover, when you are choosing the color for your beads, you are choosing the predominant color that will be in your bead pattern.