Chevron Beads from West Africa

We have one of the largest selections of Chevron trade beads on the web. Whether you are looking for traditional green glass chevron, or more exotic yellow jacket chevron, we've got you covered.

Chevron beads are a variety of glass beads that were first created by Venetian and local Murano artisans in Northern Italy following the Middle Ages in the late 1400s.  Other names for these beads are Rosetta and Star beads. Chevron beads were traded across the world especially in West Africa where they were introduced by visiting Dutch merchants. Due to their maritime strength and prowess, Dutch traders traveled widely and spread many types of glass beads throughout the world including Chevron beads. The glass industry was a big business and led to many unique beads that have been passed through the ages. In some sense the Chevron trade bead is considered the aristocrat of the bead industry because of it difficult to make and highly coveted as a trading item. In one of the earliest iterations, the Chevron consisted of seven different layers. This is generally believed to be the one hundred year period starting around 1480. In West Africa, European traders exchanged them as a form of currency for a variety of goods and services such as palm oil, ivory, possibly slaves, and luxury items that were in demand in mainland Europe.

Chevron beads are created and made using special techniques. They are classified as a type of drawn bead meaning they are made from glass cane that is created using a specially shaped mold. This process involves stretching the glass into a long tube with a hollow core on which additional layer can be applied, fused, and successively molded. Complex Chevron beads require multiple different layers. The process is concluded when bead edges are pinched to reveal a characteristic pattern zigzag or star pattern created by alternating layers of different colored glass on top of one another and stripes on the outside perimeter of the bead. The number of layers and colors and sizes has been varied over time however the most popular colors in West Africa have been a combination of red, blue and white.

Chevron Beads have been popularized through the present day and are considered possessions of prestige and status to be worn for special occasions and ceremonies by village elders, tribal chiefs, and traditional holy men. In fact, in the west many Chevrons are considered collectors items and may be worn either independently or integrated into contemporary jewelry pieces where they continue to be appreciated for their classic, recognizable, and aesthetic beauty as well as their rich historical legacy.

These beautiful trade beads age in range. While newer versions can be found in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, older chevron beads come in traditional colors and can be identified by the number of layers present.

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