Bright, beautifully colored glass trade beads with an occasional plastic spacer bead. Originally made in southern Spain, Venice, and Czechoslovakia...View full details
Checkout these beautiful White Bone from Kenya, Africa! The strand is approximately 26" long, and each bead is about 23-28mm in diameter. Due to th...View full details
Krobo tribes-people are world-reknown for the beautiful recycled glass beads they create using a process developed by their forebears. Interestingl...View full details
Take a look at this strand of Kenya Brass Heishi beads from Africa. The strand is 13"-15" long, with beads measuring 1 mm in length and 3-4mm in d...View full details
These white bone saucer beads are handcrafted in a fair trade workshop in central Kenya. Each bead is 100% unique and one-of-a-kind. Beads measure ...View full details
These delightful vinyl beads are colorful as can be. Traditionally worn as waist beads, their light weight makes them a fun and versatile addition ...View full details
Here is a beautiful strand of Ethiopian Brass Round Bicone from Africa. Each bead is handmade individually. The strand is a long approx. 28", wi...View full details
Bright, beautifully colored glass trade beads with an occasional plastic spacer bead. Originally made in southern Spain and Venice especially for t...View full details
Here is a beautiful strand of Ethiopian Round Silver Beads from Africa. Each bead is handmade individually. The strand is a long approx. 32", with ...View full details
Two strands of turquoise color small glass beads from Africa. Each bead measures approximately 4mm in diameter by 3mm in length. Some variation in ...View full details
Take a look at this unusual strand of faceted white bone beads from Kenya, Africa! Faceted bone beads such as these are difficult to find and the f...View full details
Christmas beads comprise of a special blend of choice beads created in former Czechoslovakia for use in Africa. Also known as "African love beads,"...View full details
Recycled glass beads are a type of indigenously produced African bead from Ghana West Africa. These beautiful blue color recycled beads are made us...View full details
Recycled glass beads are a type of indigenously produced African bead from Ghana West Africa. These beautiful grey color recycled beads are made us...View full details
Beautiful strand of Small Silver Heishi beads from Ethiopia!. Beads measure 1mm wide by 2mm diameter. Each strand is approximately 30 inches lon...View full details
Add a clean and pure touch to your custom design projects with these great White Seed Beads. Masterfully crafted by artisans in Ghana these White S...View full details
Beautiful strand of brass glass seed beads from Ghana, strung on a traditional raffia string. Each bead measures approximately 3-4 x 4mm with stran...View full details
Take a look at this strand of Kenya Copper Heishi beads from Africa. The strand is 12" long, with beads measuring 1mm in width and 3-4mm in diameter.
Checkout this beautiful strand of green color Ashanti glass saucer beads. The process of making these beads is unique to Africa and has been used f...View full details
The term African Beads is used to refer to both beads locally produced by indigenous people of the African continent as well as Trade Beads that have traveled from other parts of the world and now circulate or were recently sourced from Africa. Together these 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 Arabs brought glass beads to the Niger Delta to trade for gold and slaves. European explorers and traders began to arrive in the 15th century and this was followed by a tremendous influx of beads during the colonial period. At the peak of trade it is estimated that beads accounted for 40% of total imports or 2.5lbs glass beads /year for every man, women and child. Today the tradition of beads continues to be ingrained in African culture and old trade beads are still used for internal commerce.
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 hand made, 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 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. Silver has also been traditionally popular in Ethiopia. Finally, glass beadmaking is also an ancient tradition in Africa where it has been practiced for at least 1000 years. The two techniques for making glass beads that dominate in Africa are Powder-glass Beadmaking and Bida Glass Beadmaking.
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.
The number of different African and African Trade Bead varieties in existence today is enormous. Any attempt at classification is further complicated by the fact that many beads have been reworked and redecorated over time to conform to local tastes and preferences. Some of the most well known varieties of African Beads today are Krobo Beads, Kakamba Beads, Mali Clay Beads and Mali Wedding Beads, Chevrons, Millefiori, Vaseline Beads, White Heart Beads, Kiffa Beads, and Hebron Beads.