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African Beads

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    Premium Glass Mixed Trade Beads

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    Take a look a this great medley of glass trade beads! These beads have been collected from various West African countries including Nigeria, Ghana,...

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    Watermelon Carved Bone Beads (Large)

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    Admire this beautiful strand of bone beads from Kenya. East African bone beads are handcrafted by artisans using recycled cow bone. Each bead is in...

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    Ethiopian Brass Bicone Beads (8x7mm)

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    Here is a beautiful strand of Ethiopian Brass Bicone from Africa. Each bead is handmade individually. The strand is a long 30", with beads measur...

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    Krobo Fancy Powderglass Beads (Long Strand)

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    A beautiful strand of powder glass African beads, made by the people of Krobo Mountain (Ghana, West Africa ), resembling old Venetian FANCY trade b...

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    Black & White African Bead Bracelet

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    This beautiful piece of jewelry designed and created by a local craftsman in Ghana. This bracelet was made by combining a unique combination of Afr...

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    Antique Dutch Moon Bead from Ethiopia

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    If you are looking for something special, this is it. These exceptionally rare Moon Beads are very hard to find and are known for their unusual opa...

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    Silver Rectangular Tube Ethiopian Beads (5x2mm)

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    Admire this great strand of silver beads from Ethiopia fashioned in an unusual rectangular tube shape. This is a creative twist on the cylindrical ...

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    White Kente Krobo Beads (14mm)

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    A beautiful strand of powder glass African beads, made by the people of Krobo Mountain in Ghana, West Africa. Many designs of Krobo beads are patte...

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    Teal Ashanti Glass Saucer Beads

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    Checkout this beautiful strand of teal color Ashanti glass saucer beads. The process of making these beads is unique to Africa and has been used fo...

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    Blue Recycled Glass Beads (14mm)

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    Recycled glass beads are a type of indigenously produced African bead from Ghana in West Africa. These beautiful blue recycled beads are made using...

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    Brass Heishi Ethiopian Beads (2.5-3mm)

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    Beautiful strand of Brass Heishi beads from Ethiopia!. Beads are about 2.5-3mm diameter. The strand is approximately 28 inches long with hole size...

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    Blue/Green/Brown Swirl Recycled Glass Beads (14mm)

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    These great beads are made by the Krobo People of Ghana, Africa. Powder glass beads are made by crushing glass to a fine powder and heating it so t...

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    Baby Blue Recycled Glass Beads (14mm)

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    Take a look at these beautiful baby blue recycled glass beads. Measuring approximately 14mm in diameter, with a hole size of 2-3mm, these fun paste...

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    Special Medley Vinyl Phono Record Beads (4mm)

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    Take a look at this beautiful strand of multicolor African vinyl beads. Beads such as these are found in Ghana and Nigeria where they are sometimes...

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    Midnight Black Ashanti Glass Saucer Beads

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    Checkout this beautiful strand of black color Ashanti glass saucer beads. The process of making these beads is unique to Africa and has been used f...

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    White Tiny Heishi Ethiopian Beads

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    Beautiful strand of White Tiny Heishi beads from Ethiopia!. Beads are about 1mm long with a diameter of approx. 1mm. The strand is approx. 27-28...

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    Clear Aqua Recycled Glass Beads (11mm)

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    Take a look at this beautiful strand of blue recycled glass beads. You will receive a 25" strand with approximately 50 beads. Recycled glass beads ...

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    Round White Metal Ethiopian Beads (8mm)

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    Here is a beautiful strand of Ethiopian White Metal Round Beads from Africa. Each bead is handmade individually. The strand is a long approx. 28", ...

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    Blue Aqua Ghana Glass Beads (3mm)

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    One strand of blue color small glass beads from Ghana. Each bead measures approximately 2-3 x 3-4mm with strand length of 26". Some variation in in...

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    Corn Yellow Recycled Glass Beads (14mm)

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    Recycled glass beads are a type of indigenously produced African bead from Ghana West Africa. These beautiful blue color recycled beads are made us...

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    Carved X Design Bone Beads (Barrel)

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    Admire this unusual strand of bone beads from Kenya. While Kenyan bone beads are common in a variety of shapes and styles, these beads come in a ha...

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    Brass Heishi Ethiopian Beads (4mm)

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    Beautiful strand of Large Brass Heishi beads from Ethiopia!. Beads are about 4mm diameter. The strand is approximately 28 inches long.

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    Old White Padre Beads

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    These white padre beads are found in Ethiopia, East Africa. Originally European made and have been traded in African in the late 1800 early 1900's....

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    Brass Heishi Ethiopian Beads (2mm)

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    Beautiful strand of Small Brass Heishi beads from Ethiopia!. Beads measure 1mm wide by 2mm diameter. Each strand is approximately 30 inches long...

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Each African Bead carries its own story; a rich history and story behind it. Many will have had numerous owners, and seen multiple continents by the time they arrive to you. African beads and jewelry 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!

The Basics of African Beads

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.