Africa's native sedimentary rocks encompass a beautiful palette. From the mottled beiges and creams of Soapstone Beads to the vivid coral brown of Bauxite Beads from Ghana, African Stone Beads have long been prized fo...
Africa's native sedimentary rocks encompass a beautiful palette. From the mottled beiges and creams of Soapstone Beads to the vivid coral brown of Bauxite Beads from Ghana, African Stone Beads have long been prized for their aesthetic value. Unsurprisingly, some also found use as currency prior to the influx of Glass Trade Beads to Africa in the 15th Century. Characterised by their marbled appearance and dusky rust and green hues, Mali Stone Beads are one of the earliest known forms to have been used in trans-Saharan trade. Mali Stone Beads continue to hold spiritual value in some parts of Djenne – particularly among the Zarma people of the ancient Songhai Empire whom wear the beads as 'grisgris' (talismans) to ward off evil spirits. Bauxite is an abundant ore found among the foothills of Lake Volta, Northern Ghana, and is the primary element used to produce aluminium. In its natural form, Bauxite is coral red or reddish brown in color, interspersed with specks and veins of charcoal and silvery grey. The latter is due to small iron deposits embedded within the stone, causing it to sparkle in bright sunlight. Both the Krobo and Ashanti tribes of Ghana favour Bauxite for bead-making, primarily because of its resemblance to coral – a material which still holds significant value in some parts of Africa owing to its rarity. Bauxite Beads can be found in numerous sizes and shapes online, however, most bead strings from Ghana will feature beads that are loosely cylindrical or donut-like in shape – a reflection of the hand-shaping and polishing techniques that transform these stones into beautiful wearable beads.
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