African pendants and jewelry making and amulets have been a mainstay in African jewelry since the Neolithic period.
Discussing Pendants for Jewelry Making and It's History
The primary purpose of pendants for jewelry making was to provide protection from evil spirits.
However, their evolution through the ages has also lent to their being used as symbols of faith and identification. Be they made of brass, copper, bone or wood, African pendants all have one thing in common: they were made to be noticed. And that's why they're an essential component if you want to incorporate elements of African culture in your own jewelry creations.
Looking for a little inspiration? Here we explore three of the most popular varieties of African pendants used in modern jewelry designs.
Batik Bone African Pendants
Simple, yet striking, Batik Bone Pendants are without doubt one of the most visually stunning varieties of African pendants. The vast majority of Batik Bone Pendants are produced in the Oromo region of Kenya, where the wax-resist dying technique (known as “Batik”) has been practiced for hundreds of years. The patterns are painstakingly applied using a small, narrow-tipped stick or quill dipped in natural beeswax, which acts as a resistant barrier to plant dye.Patterns tend to reflect the animistic faith of Oromo tribespeople, with zebra stripes, spots and teeth featuring prominently in their designs. Batik Bone Pendants from Ghana are often more elaborate, decorated with swirls, Adinkra symbols and even the faces of deities!
Tuareg African Pendants
With their abstract, geometric designs and spiritual properties, it's little wonder that Tuareg Pendants have become such a popular feature in Western jewelry designs. Tuareg Pendants are among the earliest examples of metalsmithing in Africa, produced by the Berber people of the Sahara from the 3rd Century B.C. Traditionally they were cast from silver or white metal alloy, and occasionally embellished with semi-precious elements, such as carnelian and amber. Modern Tuareg Pendants run the gamut of sizes and shapes, however, they were originally cast in triangular, rectangular and half crescent forms. These shapes are believed to have very specific properties – particularly the triangle, which is often associated with fertility. Tuareg Pendants from Waggeur Province are also heavily replicated in Western jewelry designs, not least due the fact the cross is significant to both Christian and Islamic faiths.
African Brass Pendants
African Brass Pendants are common components within West African jewelry designs, not least because they work so well with glass. Natural oxidation also causes Baule Brass to darken quite quickly, giving it a unique vintage character ideal for pairing with old trade beads. African Brass Pendants can be found throughout Africa, however, the most ornate tend to come from Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire. Here, tribespeople reclaim brass scrap for the sole purpose of crafting beads and Baule Brass Pendants using a technique known as the “lost wax process”. Since each pendant is built up using thin strips of beeswax around a core mold, it's possible to create all manner of intricate designs. Wound whorls and crescents are among the most common. Ashanti Brass Pendants are typically more elaborate than their Baule counterparts, often featuring deities, animals and complex filigree work.
Pendants in Jewelry Making
African pendants are rarely uniform in size, shape or symmetry. Nor are they always perfectly finished. But, it is these subtle imperfections that add character to contemporary jewelry designs, transforming them into modern masterpieces.
Have you been inspired by African pendants for your own designs?