African Trade Bead Jewelry Musings
Posted on December 18 2017
It is very easy to learn about the historic trade journeys and routes around the Globe and the part played by the production and distribution of Trade Beads. Simply Google your way deep into their magic.
For the past many years I have loved and collected beads from all times and countries. I have been inspired by the designs and colors of Murano glass beads and I know they were the reason I began to make my own glass beads at the age of 50.
Over the years, I have studied and worked to bring trade bead jewelry into the market
Glass beads were being made in massive quantities in Murano and taken to Africa as ballast in the great East India trading ships. Glass is heavy and perfect for ballast and the traders discovered their value in the eyes of the native tribes. Again, you can Google this fascinating story.
The point I’m making is that those beads, gathered in villages in various parts of Africa, and strung on raffia, began to appear in the 1960s in quantity, brought over to the USA by African bead traders.
Here are some “Vaseline Beads” on thei original raffia.
African trade beads were reasonably priced in the 1960s and 70s but as they become more collectible, the prices rise and they are harder to find. I found them originally in the Village in New York when I was working as an actress there and beginning to make leather clothes. I sought them out as decoration in my work. They were sold in specialty tribal stores. Many travellers to Morocco brought them back also. Slowly but surely people began to appreciate the workmanship and magic of these beads. When I made necklaces in those days, I would put the finished piece on my copier and give, as well as possible the name and history of each bead so that the owner knew more about them. I still collect and treasure them.
This line of jewelry is made with Trade Beads.
Wearable art today, Trade beads were used to exploit African resources by early Europeans. This included the African slave trade. 500 years ago, European traders, which included the East India Company from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century, used the beads in trade. I first began collecting them in the 1960s. Google “Trade Beads” to learn about their remarkable history.