What Are African Trade Beads?
Posted on 02 August 2017
As part of our Afrika Afrika collection, Jesse James Beads is proud to announce the release of 23 different styles of African Trade Beads. These little beads are special in a big way. But what is an African Trade Bead? We're so glad you asked!
Between the 15th and 20th centuries, trade beads were used as currency as many parts of the world opened up to trade and new trade routes were established in between Africa and Europe. These beads were made of a variety of things including bone, glass, stone, and more. Glass was the most common material for these beads. West Africa was the best known region for using Trade Beads and often used them for high-class art projects and jewelry.
shown above: African Trade Bead in Blue Chevron
Today, these glass trade beads are still made in parts of West Africa. The trade bead starts off as pieces of glass that are sorted by color and then crushed by hand until it reaches the desired fineness. Molds are used to create the size and shape of each bead. Once a mold is selected the artisan places the crushed glass, called a "paste" into the mold. The filled molds then go into a kiln.
shown above: African Daisies African Trade Beads
Once the beads come out of the kiln, holes are punched into them while they are still hot. The beads are then left to cool in the mold. Once cool, the beads are then hand-painted and left to air dry before going back into the kiln to set the paint. Once the beads have finished their second trip to the kiln, they are hand strung in groups.
Here at Jesse James Beads we get our African Trade Beads from a very special place. All of our trade beads come from the Nyame Adom Foundation of America (NAFofA) as part of their Bead to Feed fundraising project. Our beads are handmade in Ghana, West Africa. They are 100% made from recycled glass and help raise money to support a local orphanage in Ghana.
shown above White Daisies African Trade Beads
You don't just get beautiful beads. You're getting beautiful environmentally friendly beads that have helped keep artisans in Ghana employed and raise money for NAFofA's orphanage.
All our African Trade Beads are available as part of our Afrika Afrika collection. Supplies are limited, get your African Trade Beads before their gone! Don't forget to take a look at the rest of the beautiful Afrika Afrika collection filled with pieces inspired by the art and culture of Tribal Africa.