The histories of most Bohemian Trade Beads are well documented. However, there are some types whose origins continue to elude even the most knowledgeable of bead collectors – specifically Colodonte Beads. Favored for their juicy, bright colors and smooth oval shape, Colodonte Beads are of an ideal size for use as focal beads in African jewelry. Their shape has also lent to their popularity among certain tribes in Mali and Ghana, where the oval has long been considered a symbol of fertility. Interestingly, these beads are also referred to as “Hummingbird” and “Pigeon” egg beads in some parts of the world. Their enduring mystery, however, is how they came to end up in West Africa during the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Colodonte Beads are believed to be of Bohemian origin (now Czechoslovakia). They were made using a similar winding technique to that used for Padre Beads in the late 1900s. Considering most of the exports from old Bohemia in the 19th and early 20th Century were pressed beads, it does beggar the question: were Colodonte Beads made far earlier than is thought? Another enduring mystery is their name – Colodonte - which at first glance would suggest they may be of Italian origin; “colo” from the word “colore”, meaning color, and “donte”, which, loosely translated, means enduring or everlasting. Both Italy and Spain were extremely active during the trade era, and it may well be possible that these beads were made specifically for Italian merchants to use as currency overseas.
Want to incorporate Colodonte Beads into your bohemian African jewelry? Discover our fascinating selection of juicy Colodonte Beads here.