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Batik Bone Beads – How Are The Designs Applied?

Batik Bone Beads are predominantly the products of Ghanian and Kenyan tribes-people, however the process itself is said to date back to 4th Century B.C.E Egypt.

Batik Bone Beads History

Originally a means to apply pattern to cloth, the process was adopted within African tribes to apply stunning, contrasting designs to beads and accessories – often symbolic of regal, or higher social status.

The intrinsic colors of these African Beads are brown and white, with a bold design such as the Eye Design Batik Bone Beads, within The Bead Chest “Bone Beads” category.

Traditionally, Batik Bone Beads are made from the bone of agricultural animals such as cow or camel. Some are bleached using a simple dye and heat process, whereas others are allowed to darken with age prior to designs being applied.

Batik Designs

Designs would be carved into the bone using a sharp implement such as a craft knife or stone. Exceptional craftsmen would create the design during the wax-resistance process, painting on swirl or circular motifs with clear beeswax.

Beeswax is vital to the Batik dyeing process, due to it's resistant properties. When applied hot to bone beads, it would be allowed to dry briefly – sinking into the bone, coating it with a laquer finish that dye could not penetrate.

Batik Dyes

Batik dyes are generally developed using natural resources such as tree bark, sap and plant extract. Darker blue/ black dyes were created using flowers from indigo plants. The Bead Chest's Peacock Design Batique Bone Beads are a beautiful example of the stunning contrast that could be achieved.

Compared to the Batik cloth-dyeing method, Batik Bone Beads required little in the way of preparation prior to the dyeing process. Occasionally, bone may be boiled to soften it slightly – thought to make it more absorbent for dyeing, and more adhesive to wax.

Bone Bead Qualities

Bone beads also tend to be extremely polished – a process done prior to, and post-dyeing. The length of time a bead would remain dipped into a dye depended upon the effect to be achieved.

Starkly contrasting colors of brown-black and pure white were achieved by leaving the bead to “soak” for longer within the dye. The multi-tonal chestnut brown of our Kenya Bone Beads is achieved by a thinner wax application to the bead, prior to dyeing.

Batik Bone Bead Shapes

Batik Bone Beads come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, however cylindrical and circular beads were popular for tribal jewelry and accessories. At The Bead Chest, we stock an abundant variety of Batik Bone Beads – so why not familiarize yourself with some the most traditional designs including our Zebra and Polkadot Batik Bone Beads.