From colonial times to the present day, the main area of glass bead manufacture is West Africa.
Ghana is regarded as the Bead Production Capital of the World. We hand pick our beads with an eye for quality and beauty from our long standing trade partner Mohammad, who trades from Agbogbloshie Market in greater Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana.
Mohamed has been supplying us with his wonderful Tuareg jewellery for several years now. He travels back and forth from his native village in northern Niger where his family continue a four generational tradition of silversmithing. He brings a special collection of fine quality silver often embedded with semi precious stones.
We stock a wide range of beads from many different regions in West Africa in a combination of styles, patterns and colours. Traditional glass beads of Ghana are often referred to as Krobo beads, the Krobo mountains being the main area of production. These beads are made from recycled glass. Bottles and other glass items are first washed and sorted by colours. They are then broken into small fragments for making translucent beads, or pounded with a metal mortar and pestle, and sieved to get a very fine powder for making powder glass beads. Glass powder of different colours is obtained using ceramic dyes.
Some of the most well known West African beads are trade beads, which formed an important element in early trade networks between Europe and Africa. Pioneered in 12th century Venice, trade beads were created using techniques of glass-blowing and smelting. Around the 15th – 16th century, commercial production began spurred on by a demand from Africa where they were prized as currency and highly coveted, leading to their modern name: African trade beads.
The beads were popular as glassmaking was uncommon in Africa, making them unusual and precious. They were particularly valued and sought after in West Africa, where they were often used in the creation of high-status decorative art objects.
Marriage Beads from Mali were also traded out of Bohemia where they became incorporated into the traditions of the Fulani Don Don Sole and are worn by Fulani women on their wedding day. They are presented to the bride at marriage ceremonies accompanied by joyful music, dancing, speeches and traditional food. Highly treasured and prestigious, they were traditionally made from clay until the 1800s when trade with Europe introduced glass beads which were taken up by cultures across West Africa and have been traded ever since. Strung upon their original raffia.
Mali marriage beads are multicoloured and come in different shapes and sizes. Some are in the shape of a bulb, while others are elongated, flat, or triangular. Each strand of Mali Wedding Beads is unique, and may vary from the strand pictured.
Watch the video below to learn more about how beads are made in Ghana.
Source: Xplore Film (YouTube)