Some of the Ghanaian beads came from elsewhere originally and became incorporated with the Powder-glass
beads that the Africans made. Those beads have been referred to as African Trading Beads because they were originally brought
over by Europeans and others, to various parts of Africa, including Ghana, and used in trading for goods or services. Peoples
on the West African coast began to trade with Europe in the late fifteenth century. The Portuguese, Dutch, English, French,
Belgians and Germans brought millions of Venetian, Dutch and Bohemian glass beads to Africa.
I also include Ghanaian beads made from various metals. Metal beads have also been made for centuries.
The ones I use are newer but still made today in the same way. The history of the
older and original metal beads in Africa is more obscure. It is known that most
African societies have tended to make the beads using indigenous materials, including locally available metals. Africans have
used iron for tools and weapons since at least 300 B.C., but for adornment much later. This process uses a lost-wax casting
method and has been known in West Africa since the ninth century. It is thought
to have been introduced from the north via trans-Saharan traders.
As my friend, Diana who is from Ghana, pointed out : Bead
making has been a flourishing industry in West Africa since the sixteenth century and beads are made today in much the same
way as they were then by artisans in small villages who learnt the technique from their ancestors. Whole villages are involved
in the production of the beads: fashioning the forms and furnaces used for making the beads out of mud, sticks and stones;
grinding the glass (recycled from bottles, jars and broken beads) to a fine powder; washing and stringing the finished beads
onto raffia strips for the journey to the market.2.
As a result, no two beads are exactly the same and when strung together have a strong aesthetic presence.
I hope you enjoy wearing these beads as much as I do!
1. Dubin, Lois Sherr. 1987. The history of beads, from 30,000B.C. to the present. New York: Harry N. Abrams,
2. Knol, Diana. Toronto, Canada