African Brass Beads: Beads With a History!


Copper and silver beads are quite popular but it is the African Brass Beads that actually command attention, they can make heads turn! You can use these in neckpieces or bracelets as a whole strand of beads or accompanied with a stone for splendid, unique piece of jewellery. What most people don’t know is that these eye catching beads have a history behind them, apart from the fact that they are handcrafted jewellery that have been fashioned to treasure the antique art. These ornamental beads always have a story to tell.

Apart from being ornamental, these beads are used by the different tribal groups in Africa for rituals as well as religious beliefs. There is a theory or reason for wearing each of them as jewellery.

Brass is extensively used in Savannah; this region is the centre of the trade route between west and North Africa. The tribes from the equatorial rain forest region have acquired their wealth from this kind of trade. The royals from Benin, in southern Nigeria are known to wear ornaments made of brass beads for special occasions. These intricately carved brass beads are held in high regard, so much so that even the king who is called Oba here, wears these brass ornamental pieces of jewellery. Here, these beads are created into beautiful pieces of jewellery by a method called bronze casting, also known as lost wax method. This process of bronze casting dates back as old as 13th century. Even the Ghana tribe is known to use these beads extensively using the lost wax method.

Today, Kenya and Ethiopia produce brass beads on a large scale. However, Ghana is accredited with producing the most intricate lot of these beads. Making of these metal beads requires exception skills as it needs to be created by hand. These bracelets are quite popular among the women in Nigeria. Interestingly, the women here use these bracelets to entice young men.

Religious beliefs are one of the major reasons why the inhabitants of Yoruba region use them in their jewellery. The Yoruba group believes in spirits, commonly known as Orishas. These African beads are believed to protect them from evil spirits.

For the Moors, brass signify trade; they trade their jewellery during an annual festival called Cure Salee. The nomadic women from this tribe wrap their hair and ankle with beads made of brass. The ankles known as jabo are believed to help young women attract men. The jabo is worn till the birth of her first child. The beads worn by most tribals and nomads are creative and innovative but at the same time have religions and mythical significance, sometimes even used as dowry.

Over the years, the African brass beads have undergone numerous changes. The Krofofrom artisans from Ghana now use breads to make ornamental and decorative jewellery; it is still an important craft among the tribals here. However, they till date use the lost wax method and also make handcrafted brass beads. These beads have now become popular across the globe; they come in various designs, shapes and sizes. They give each piece of jewellery a distinctive look.

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