Tabular brass beads are more flat than round and were common adornments amongst members of African traditional society. In countries such as Ghana, tabular brass beads were hand made by bead makers from the Ashanti tribe to create one-of-a-kind pieces such as beautiful triangle matched beads crafted from brass through the lost wax technique. What makes each tabular brass bead unique is the fact that a mold is specifically prepared for each bead, which is thereafter destroyed in order to extract the bead. Also hand strung, tabular brass beads are ideal for designing elaborate pieces of jewelry or simply wearing them as they come in the form of necklaces or bracelets.
Originally made using salts from the Dead Sea, Hebron beads date back to earlier than the mid-19th century. Hebron beads – also referred to as “Kano beads”, are commonly found in a dull yellow color, although they also appear in various shades of green and blue, although rare. These beads are a favorite amongst antique bead collectors who cherish them for their rich history which saw them travel from Egypt, along the Nile, into the Sudan and even as far as Ghana to adorn the bodies of West African royalty. Their craftsmanship involves their being wound straight in furnace to produce a shining glass bead. The larger of the Hebron beads are referred to as Mongur, while the smaller ones go by the name Harish.
Clay beads date as far back as 1000 BC in various regions across the world. In Africa, clay beads were used as trade beads in countries such as Ghana and Mali. Clay beads were mainly adorned by the poor due to their affordability. In contrast to the rare precious stones and metals that the rich could wear, clay was available in abundance. Clay beads were traditionally used in prayer strands as well as in amulets as jewelry. The beads were typically designed with large holes that could accommodate leather thongs as strands. Today, some nations prize their clay bead heritage so much that they prohibit their export.
Sand cast beads are also referred to as powdered glass beads and feature glass beads crafted by hand. These beads were popularly used as currency during trade in West African countries such as Ghana. Sand cast beads are made in a process which has bead makers grinding up bottles or other scrap glass to produce recycled beads. These are then fired in clay molds at a relatively low temperature in order to give the beads texture. Sand cast beads are available in beautiful colors such as blue and may be strung bead to bead to produce beautiful strands on raffia.
Bauxite clay beads were originally made in West Africa in countries such as Ghana. These beads played a role in traditional rites and ceremonies such as circumcision, coming of age, marriage, burial, as well as other traditional festivals. These beads were mainly worn as pendants and bracelets, and formed a visual language that spoke of the beliefs, status, family, life experiences and accomplishments of the bead wearer. Bauxite clay beads were formed with care to produce a final ornament that would tell the story of the wearer. As such, these beads served as a biography of the community, village and the individuals that adorned themselves with the bauxite clay beads.
Photos courtesy of Claudia Hogue and Shari Burton – Bears Beads and Chains
Strands contain Brass Bicone Beads, Watermelon Beads, White Hearts, Krobo Beads, Kakamba Beads, Ghana Beads, Feather Beads, Eye Beads, Batik Bone Beads, Padre Beads, Ostrich Eggshell Beads, Snake Beads, Heishi Beads, and just about everything else!
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