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Learn more about King Beads

African King Beads are a rare find among the many thousands of trade beads sold online. Unlike most African Trade Beads manufactured throughout the 1800's in Venice, these bold, striped bicones are the result of a highly skilled technique known as marvering. The marver - a long thin rod of polished steel - is commonly used in glass-blowing, and forms the base around which around which each glass bead is individually wound. Steel has the capacity to absorb heat directly from the outermost skin of the glass, making it easier for smaller strips of coloured glass to be applied to produce the striped patina. According to Bodum legend, Venetian King Beads were originally made to order for merchants plying trade with Africa. The bold design is said to derive from ancient Bodum Beads worn by African royalty – specifically tribal leaders and Kings – to emphasise their status. The majority of Bodum Beads from the 18th Century are far less elaborate in design compared to their European replicas, characterised by distinctive yellow stripes and a jet black core. . In Ghana, King Beads are particularly prominent in Krobo Dipo Initiation ceremonies which mark the coming of age of female adolescents. On the fifth day of Dipo, known as 'Mahe Ya Mi', young females are adorned with colourful Kente clothes and beads to communicate the wealth and status of the family to potential suitors. The quantity and quality of beads worn can have a significant impact upon her chances of finding a suitor of respectable social standing. King Beads of varying sizes continue to be highly sought after today, however, only the bicone shaped ones are authentic. The king beads carried by The Bead Chest are most often recent productions created within the past two decades.