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Uses of African Trade Beads: African Fashion

This is the second post in a five-part series on the different uses of African trade beads. Today we are discussing the use of beads in African fashion.

Uses of Beads in Fashion

African Trade Beads have become somewhat of a fashion staple in recent years, both in Africa and the Western world, primarily because of the Fair Trade movement and efforts being made toward environmental conservation.

Centuries prior to the trade-movement, nomadic groups such as the Fulani, Krobo and Ashanti were crafting decorative ornaments from natural materials, including wood, bone, clay, teeth and agate.

The rarity of some mineral deposits (such as jade) influenced the value of decorative accessories, to the extent such exquisite creations were reserved purely for commissioned tribal jewelry which would adorn the necks, wrists and waists of elite or respected members, thereby making a nice use of beads in fashion.

Bead Economy

The economy for Recycled Powder glass Beads has existed for over 200 years in the Southern regions of Africa, primarily to create a currency for trade – yet also for the provision of commissioned jewelry pieces, that were exported with European merchants returning to their homelands.

These ethnic pieces began to increase in popularity, especially as African tribes-people had realized a relatively cheap bead-making process from recycled waste. They too began to experiment with styles incorporating the chunky Prosser Beads and Old Padre Beads from the eras of trading.

Jewelry As Part of Culture

Jewelry took on the very new purpose of defining cultures, dividing classes and distinguishing the elite or elders. Typically, those of more wealth or aristocratic status would be adorned with heavier, more statement pieces of jewelry.

For the past two Centuries, Ghana has been labeled the largest exporter of African Trade Beads, primarily due to the Recycled Glass Bead production popularized by the inhabitants of the Krobo region.

Here, glass bead production has become an integral economy, helping build avenues between Africa and the international markets, thus improving lifestyles and quality of life for many people.

Krobo Fashion & Use of Beads

Krobo Beads themselves have been adopted as a fashion accessory for the modern peoples of the region. Ghanaian women wear chunky beaded belts to accentuate their waists and add a splash of color to their outfits.

Even Krobo males now wear beaded cuffs and bracelets. The young have revived an old belief - “Sankofa”, essentially bringing old styles back to life. This mentality is also evident in the fashion U-turns of the Western world, now favoring vintage accessories over machine-produced replication.

Perhaps the most popular fashion revival is that of environmental conservation – a movement which the people of Africa are extremely conscious of, and passionate about. For Centuries they relied upon resources which “came from the Earth”, and this ideology still remains today.

Most Popular Use of Beads Within Fashion

Recycled Beads are the most popular adornments within modern African jewelry and their use of beads in fashion, which in turn has influenced the Bohemian style Western nations are only just discovering.

You too can be at the forefront of fashion, while doing your part to support environmental conservation by simply evolving your shopping habits and buying Recycled Beads like our Multi-Color Kakamba Prosser Beads. If we take care of the “now”, the future will take care of herself!