Powder Glass Beads are handmade beads characterized by the use of a specific manufacturing process. Other names for these beads are pot beads sand cast beads and priest’s beads however all of these names are more or less misnomers. The process for making these glass beads is very ancient and may have been practiced in parts of West and East Africa for over one thousand years. In fact, Powder Glass Beads were worn by Asante kings and were considered as a sign of wealth. Today some of these old beads are very valuable. At the present time, Ghana is a major producer of Powder Glass Beads especially in Ashante and Krobo villages. Similarly women in Mauritania near the town of Kiffa are also involved in making Powder Glass Beads. These beads continue to play an important role in tribal society including rituals of birth, coming of age, as well as other ceremonies. Sometimes it is possible to differentiate beads made in different villages based on their design.
The process for making Powder Glass Beads has a number of steps, and is similar to the method for making Ghana's popular recycled glass beads. In the first stage, old glass from different sources such as old medicine bottles, jars, plates, ashtrays, window panes, etc is pounded into a fine powder. Different glass coarseness and origin may be used to produce different effects such as texture. This material is melted and then poured into clay molds depending on the desired design. The stem from the cassava plant may be used to leave a perforation in the bead and is burned off during the firing stage. The molds are then placed into an oven low temperature where the beads are fired for approximately one hour so that the glass pieces fuse together before the beads are removed, cleaned, and sometimes polished. Beads may be further designed by painting after they have cooled. Powder Glass Beads continue to be popular among both collectors and jewelry designers.