Ethiopian Telsum Beads are a popular variety of African metal beads produced in Northern Ethiopia. Traditionally worn for their talismanic properties, they come in a variety of shapes – the most common being triangles, rectangles and half crescents. Each shape is believed to protect the wearer from a different form of evil: triangular amulets for protection against the “evil eye”, and the crescent for evil spells cast under the moon.
Ethiopian Telsum Beads have become a popular focal component within modern African jewelry designs due to their association with fertility. The connector styles in particular are believed to enhance fertility when adorned with phallic beads. In some tribes, betrothed men also present telsums to their brides on the eve of their wedding for this reason. Square and rectangular Ethiopian Telsum Beads are customarily worn as prayer boxes, strung upon a single strand of cloth or yarn along with colored glass or natural beads.
Telsum are distinguishable from other African metal beads by their geometric designs and elaborate raised patterns. The number, size and distribution of these dots are significant among some tribes who still use Ethiopian Telsum Beads for prayer and protection. Historically, Telsum Beads were made from silver sourced from the Maria Theresa thaler, however, modern versions tend to be a combination of white metal alloys, including nickel. Most also tend to have an aged appearance due to oxidation, which only adds to their vintage appeal.