Learn about treasures on this site

"African Pipestone" or Abo is the Krobo name for the bead they made from bauxite, an aluminium ore.
Similar material was found near the industrial production, powered by the Akosombo Dam in Ghana

Strand of Ancient Quartz and Agate Stone Beads from Mali
Agate bicones , Nigeria 1900.- The production process for Agate and other stones was laborious as the holes were pecked out with tiny tools hammered at the ends: It took a man a day to make only  a couple of beads. Production ended in the 1930s BT0572-BT0584

Commercially produced in India from 2500 years ago.  Originally, naturally occurring agate, impregnated with iron impurities, was found in central India in the river bed of the Narmada River. Hand-shaping and processing by heating at Khambat (Cambay) found in Mali and Mauritania. BT0587-BT0593
Aja beads were historically made in Venice in the early 20th century, from drawn glass tubes which were cooled and cut into small slices. Once cut, the slices of drawn cane were thereafter exposed to heat until the glass softened or slumped. This caused the beads to flatten and their hard cut edges to soften and become rounded. Experts speculate that the process of slumping was in actual fact carried out in Africa as there is no evidence of the slumped slices ever being sold in Venice. Aja beads range in size, color and canes with the most spectacular being crafted from Rosetta or chevron cane. These beautiful and somewhat unusual beads are today used to craft exquisite jewelry pieces such as those featuring 4-layer “yellow jacket” slices.

Difficult to find and greatly valued since prehistoric times .. these ancient beads from Mali and Mauritania are very sought after and sold by weight in Africa.
These beads were most likely made in Venice sometime in the 19th century, or very early 20th century. Most of the time, they are found in good condition, but some beads can be cracked or chipped due to age. These trade beads are said to hold some kind of mysterious and romantic connection to the past. The beads measure anywhere from 4mm - 10mm in diameter, and there are usually anywhere from 100 - 180 beads per strand.
Kenya East Africa, Known as Batik Beads, these hand-carved and dyed beads have designs closely resembling the patterns found on traditional East African textiles. Wax is applied, in the desired pattern, to the white bone and the beads are dipped in a thick black dye made from boiled tree sap. When washed to remove the wax, the dyed pattern remains.

These Brass Beads were made with the lost wax method by the Baoule tribe,
prolific producers of brass ornaments and charms. 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.

Mainly to be found in the Côte d'Ivoire, ( Ivory Coast ) the Baoules are original descendants
of the Ashanti tribes of Ghana.

They form part of the Akan group of the Ivory Coast, who created a series of kingdoms and city-states that progressively occupied the entire forest region all the way to the Gulf of Guinea.

 During the eighteenth century, their Queen, Abla Poku, led her people West to the shores of the Cornoe, the land of the Senufo. In order to cross the river, she sacrificed her own son.
This sacrifice was the origin of the name Baoule, for baouli means "the child has died."

Bembe Cote beads are a type of African trade beads popular amongst the Bembe people of Congo. These decorative glass beads were popularly used for trading purposes in Africa during the pre-20th century period, mainly as currency for the exchange of goods, services and slaves. The success of Bembe Cote beads as a form of currency is largely attributed to the high intrinsic value that the people of Africa placed on decorative items. Bembe Cote beads are today available in attractive colors such as deep maroon with each individual bead measuring approximately ½ inches in diameter.
Czech, molded, found in Senegal. Bitto beads are named for the tribe where they are found. Little flat floral shape make great spacers or used flat like a button.

Medieval Aggrey and Yoruba Koli drawn glass beads.
Early German and Middle Eastern Production dating from ca 900 AD onwards and found in Mali and Burkina Faso .. as a result of ancient trans-Saharan trading routes following the River Niger.. they have lovely translucent blue / green colours when backlit. The light blue opaque cylinders are cooked Koli .. early European glass, once translucent, but now mostly opaque from having been cooked in Africa.

Very large bead strand with marble beads:  A rare and unique collections of ancient and original Bodom and Akosu beads
Bottle beads are made in Ghana, Indonesia and Israel and perhaps in other countries as well. Recycled glass is sorted, crushed, placed in a mold and heated to fuse. The roundish crudely shaped beads are African and to me are much more interesting than those smooth round beads from Indonesia. Both types come in many sizes and a few shapes. See powdered glass bead information below for detailed description of making them.
Cameroon, ivory coast and other African countries have been making brass bicones by hand for centuries. You will find them in many sizes, shapes and degrees of uniformity.
Button beads are small glass beads which resemble modern buttons, although they do not have a group of central holes. These beads date back to the Etruscan period and the time of the Roman Empire, but later found their way to Syria and Egypt. Button beads are generally very beautiful and boast artistic workmanship. Today as in the past, button beads are used to make exquisite necklaces using these beads entirely, some of which may be cemented together two and two in order to form a single bead. Button beads take on various shapes including circular, flat, oval, plane, convex or convex-concave shapes.
BT0587-BT0593 - commercially produced in India from 2500 years ago.  Originally, naturally occurring agate, impregnated with iron impurities, was found in central India in the river bed of the Narmada River. Hand-shaping and processing by heating at Khambat (Cambay) found in Mali and Mauritania.
Bphemian glass reproduction Carnelian beads finished by hand- documented as being produced in the early 1800's and widely used in West Africa, unfortunately often in the slave trade.

Invented by Marietta Barovier in 1480 as Rosetta beads and produced in Venice, Italy, from that time to the present day, they are considered by many in Africa to be the most highly prized of all beads. They were worn by chiefs, marabouts and wealthy village elders, many of whom were buried wearing their finery. In time, natural earth movements bring these beautiful beads to the surface, giving rise to the widely held African legend that they grow from the soil.
Produced by fusing various numbers of layers of different coloured glass ... which were then shaped and ground into many patterns and polished by hand or by tumbling to various degrees of opaque, satin or high gloss finishes.

Coin metal is a metallic material which is fashioned into a disc and often used as currency. Some common metals used to make coins include brass, silver, exotic metals such as gold and silver, as well as other metals like nickel, zinc and copper.  Coin metal beads are also referred to as nickel metal beads and are commonly available in metals such as brass and silver. These beads receive their name from the particular coin metal used in their construction. As such, coin metal beads may take the form of coin silver beads and coin brass beads.
Coptic crosses have a rich history as being popularly worn by Ethiopian Christian converts for over 1,600 years. Their designs vary widely and are indicative of the town or province from which they originate. Most crosses were crafted using the lost wax technique and tend to exhibit elaborate designs showing Latin, Greek, Egyptian and Celtic influences. Generally, the older the Coptic cross, the better its quality of silver.
Djenné, Ancient Nila and Fouille Beads - Rare ancient Nila and assorted coloured glass, from the Dogon Area of Mali.
Although known as 'Nila' blue, there are many variations in colour and differing opinions as to their origins.  Most of these beads probably arrived in Mali around 1000 years ago, via the ancient trade routes to Djenné from other areas of Africa, Europe and the Middle East . Many have been buried beneath the desert sands for centuries.  The beads clean clear beads were found in sand, those with superficial white deposits were found in soil. They can be cleaned by soaking in a gentle but abrasive liquid soap to reveal their beautiful color.
Ellipsoid with fluid flower patterns in blue or red on bone white base. Venetian imitations of a Dutch bead.  Called Dabwa in Nigeria. 
Made in Germany (not Holland) 1860 – 97
Dogon Ring Trade Beads are glass beads that were made in Germany,circa;1820- 1890. They are commonly called "Dutch Dogon", but they are not Dutch. They were traded most of the time in Senegal, Africa and used by the Dogon Tribe...hence Dogon Trade Beads
Popular lamp-wound glass beads, produced from the early to late 1800's,
in a multitude of different colour and pattern variations.
Beautiful lamp-wound and trail-decorated glass beads, produced, enhanced and developed from the late 1800's onwards, using a trail-decoration process, made possible with the change from oil to gas lamps by the leading bead-masters of the 1860's. Many have the addition of Aventurine ( tiny flakes of copper suspended in a transparent glass medium ) which the Venetians invented in the late 1600's and maintained a monopoly on until the mid-1880's.
"Floral", " squiggle " and " feather " designs created many centuries ago. Traditionally made using hot glass which is wrapped around a shaft and shaped, whilst maintaining a circular motion, with a flat paddle. The addition of one or more layers of colour to an already hot bead, are then dragged through the bead ( combing ) or laid on (trailed) using the paddle's edge, forming these patterns - waves or feather patterns from lines or floral motifs from dots.
French Cross Beads are African trade beads with a history dating back to the late 19th century in Africa. French cross beads were made in Venice and commonly used for trading purposes in Africa during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. However, in the late 1960’s French cross beads witnessed a revival when bead traders began to export them from Africa into the United States and Europe.
Venice 1600's, They get their name from the translucent green core that the beads have under the red brick color on the outside of the bead.
Hebron or "Kano" Glass beads. Made from the 12th Century to around 1880 Beadmakers apparently emigrated from Tyre in the Mediterranean to Hebron, near Jerusalem after the twelfth century. They used salts of the Dead Sea as their alkali. and produced wound beads with large holds, most often in shades of green and yellow. Multicolored beads are extremely rare, made to emulate Roman and Islamic “crumb” beads. The beads were very popular in Egypt and in sub-Saharian Africa during and after Middle Ages. They were imported to Egypt , Sudan, Chad by the Hausa traders, as so called "Kano" (Hausa capital) bead. Beads used our days by the Philistine women. 
Ancient Indonesian Pelangi / Jatim Bead
Ancient Jatim glass beads are polychromatic and where produced in Java, Indonesia from 900 A.D. and earlier. These beads show the influence of Roman and Middle Eastern beadmaking techniques that pre-date Islam. Jatim beads differ from other millefiori beads because of the form of their base (it being a cane), and by the distortion of the external pattern (from the constriction process). The majority of Indonesian-made beads was made from canes, and formed into beads via the "hot-pinched" method. A decorated cane about the size and proportion of a large sausage was heated to a plastic state, and a tool was used to constrict the cane in places along its length, to form the ends of beads. This constriction was typically partial, leaving a series of beads attached to one another, and later broken apart, often leaving the apertures of these beads rimmed or nippled by a slight extension. This is their singlemost significant feature that distinguishes these beads from most other ancient beads. 
Kankanmba beads, Bohemian molded disks, are a type of African trade beads which were popularly used and widely distributed all over the continent in the 19th century. Also referred to as “Prosser beads”, Kankanmba beads were crafted from glass and ceramic using the technology from a button-making machine invented by the two Prosser brothers of Bohemia in the 1830s. The use of this technology was prevalent well into the 1860s, with these beads being produced with a thin seam. Kankanmba beads were also used for trading purposes by the American Indians who incorporated them into their crafts. While the production of Kankanmba beads through the Prosser technique is almost defunct, bed makers in morocco have over the years been trying to revive this process.
Akosu (kings’ beads)- from Ghana,  Czech and Venetian Glass, powder glass beads, made from 1750's in Venice, collected by the Ewe tribe of Togo and Ghana.  On-going discussion as to where these beads were actually made although all agree that the techniques used are centuries old. Made using techniques centuries old, these beads were found in Burkina Faso, a neighboring country to those of their origins. These lamp-wound beads were produced from the 1760's in Venice, Italy, and are reproduced in present times by most bead making countries around the world.
Lamp-wound beads are made using a pre formed rod of glass ( cane ) which is heated in a jet of flame until it begins to melt (slump ) - this is then manually wound around a wire and shaped with a paddle, whilst adding other glass rods or elements to decorate it
The Krobo people of Ghana make beads from recycled glass which they crush by hand with a mortar and pestle.  Small quantities of ceramic powder or “mason stain” is added to the glass for more color to the base bead.  The glass powder is poured into home-made clay molds and a cassava stick is put into the center to create the bead’s hole.  The bead molds are then placed in a hot home-made oven using a long-handled spatula.  The cassava stick burns out leaving the hole.  While the glass is slightly soft, the mold is taken from the oven and each bead loosened from the mold.  After the beads are cooled and washed, they are then painted with the artist’s designs, one color at a time and fired after the application of each color.
From 1920 Czech, said to have been manufactured using prison labour. Worn in Mali on ceremonial occasions by the Fulani and Peul people up to the present. The shapes are called “light-bulb”, “claw” “teardrop”, triangular, bottle  and “pineapple.” Sometimes called "dunduns"
Padre beads: Chinese bead which travelled all over the world as part of the Spanish silver trade. Best known in North America where they were popular with Southwest US Amerinds, especially the turquoise blue color. Made ca. late 18th-early 19th C. by the primitive winding process. These are old, circulated Padres, not the more regular, often-seamed European copies. Commonest Turquoise Blue or White
Abo is the Krobo name for beads made from Bauxite, an aluminium ore. One source of the bead material is not far from the industrial production, powered by the Akosombo Dam in Ghana.

Old Goamba/Goomba Trade Beads, found all over West Africa ... some of these beads were found in the bush and on the shore near the old Albreda trading post at Juffureh, on the banks of the River Gambia. This village was the location used as the home of Kunta Kinte by Alex Haley, when he wrote his famous Roots story. - These strands on Pure White Goomba Trade beads are a West African Glass Trade Bead. All 100% Handmade

West Africans have been using old and scrap glass for their bead-making for over 1000 years.

Over the last 400 years, the peoples of the Asante and Krobo tribal areas in Ghana have been the leading exponents of this art. Individual village production can be identified from the different colours and patterns and these older production beads are becoming very collectible.

Making powder glass beads:

Wash and sort bottles by color, break or translucent beads or grind and sieve to powder to make powder glass beads. Use ceramic dyes for different colors of glass.

Place powder in claybead mould coated with kaolin to prevent sticking. Put cassava stalks into mould which will burn during the fusion and leave a hole for threading.

Cook in traditional kiln made of termite clay. Translucents cook for 35-45 minutes at 850-1000 deg and powder glass cook for 10-30 minutes at 650-850 deg. Celsius. Cook painted beads twice - the second time to fix the paste of colored glass powder used to decorate the beads.

When translucent beads are removed from kiln, make center hole using an awl.One awl will maintain the mould in place, while the other will turn the bead around in the mould to shape it. In the meantime, the fused glass will slowly harden at room temperature. Leave the beads to slowly cool in the moulds for about one hour to prevent them from cracking. Take them out of the mould, and then wash and polish them by vigorously rubbing them with sand and water on a smooth stone surface.

Using the leaf of the raffia tree, the Kuba people of the Congo first hand cut, and then weave the strips of leaf to make pieces of fabric, often called raffia cloth. There are several different sub groups of the Kuba people. Each group has different and unique ways to make the fabric. Some make it thicker, longer, shorter, or with different patches. Each patch is symbolic and many times a piece has many different meanings. When Kuba cloth originated there were probably no patches used, but as the cloth is brittle it is quite likely that the patches were used to repair the frequent tears. Later each patch developed a meaning, many patterns are uniquely arranged to tell a story. Each patch is symbolic and many times a piece has many different meanings.

On the basis of what a person wore, you could interpret much about them. Social status age, marital status, and a person's character were just a few of the things a piece of cloth symbolized to these people. 

The process of making Kuba cloth is extremely time consuming and may take several days to form a simple placemat size piece. The men first gather the leaves of the raffia tree and then dye it using mud, indigo, or substances from the camwood tree. They then rub the raffia fibers in their hands to soften it and make it easier to weave the strips of leaf to make pieces of fabric, often called raffia cloth. After they've completed the base cloth the women embroider it. They do this by pulling a few threads of the raffia fibers, inserting them into a needle running the needle through the cloth until the fibers show up on the opposite end. They then take a knife and cut off the top of the fibers, leaving only a little bit showing. Doing this hundreds of times forms a design. The designs are seldom planned out ahead of time, and most of the embroidery is done by memory. There are several different sub groups of the Kuba people. Each group has different and unique ways to make the fabric.

The making of mudcloth is a time-consuming process, normally taking four days to a week to complete depending on weather.  Each piece is made of 100% cotton, and is completely and totally hand-made.  

The men start the process by weaving cotton thread on a loom.  The loom is normally hand-held and makes a  strip of cloth 5"-6" wide.  After they weave around 9 panels they sew them together and then traditionally the women paint and design the cloth.

A mudcloth artist deals in a specific field. Each concept is taught and learned over a long period of time.  A person wishing to work in the art of mudcloth has to be taught how to make each of the different dyes out of organic substances, as well as how each of the substances will react with the fabric and fixatives.  

The first step in making the cloth is to set it in a fixative solution made from tea. The mud designs are then hand-painted and the tea  sets into the fabric. Mud used to make mudcloth is usually mixed with water and set aside for about a year.  

Using twigs or metal instruments the artist paints the designs with the mud,  saturating the area so it will not  wash out. After being washed the process is repeated and then dried and put in another solution to make patterns stand out more. On black and white fabric, a soda is painted on the areas with no patterns causing then to be white. Each color has meaning. The most traditional coloring has been the black background with white designs. This is typically used for story telling or the portrayal of a proverb.

Another color popular among hunters and the Fulani people is the rust.  This color is appreciated because doesn't show dirt and represents strong supernatural powers that protect the hunter.  The rust color signifies blood either from the hunt, or from warfare.  Because mudcloth is made from the soils, it has been useful to both groups as a form of camouflage.

White mudcloth is perhaps the most difficult fabric, and it's easy to stain with the dye. White is a color normally worn by women or girls at ceremonial events.  Another rare color is gray which ia also worn by hunters. Cream is a natural color of the mudcloth before it has been dyed.

Recently many colors have been added to the traditional colors. Bright reds, purples, yellows, and oranges are constantly being developed by new artists. Many people view these with disdain as they are not traditional.

Milagros, or miracles, are from Mexico. The images represent body parts, pets, and sometimes objects. These little charms, usually made of tin, are fastened to statues of holy persons in churches while the worshiper prays for a miracle. If the worshiper has a broken foot, he would pray for swift healing, if his dog is sick, the prayer would be for the pet's swift recovery and so on. When I was in Mexico looking for Milagros, all I could find were the sterling silver charms made for the tourist market. These are the "cheap" base metal milagros which made very interesting additions to many kinds of jewelry.
Mosaic or Millefiore (thousand flowers) have been very popular collectors' beads for over 100 years - with thousands of different design and colour variations. Millefiori have been made in several shapes, elbow, oblong, tubular, round and flat.
Millefiore, or "end of the day beads" were traditionally made by fusing chips of murine cane to a core of scrap glass. Murine, a cylinder of fused glass rods bundled together to create a pattern of color in the cross-section, is made by bundling rods of colored glass then fusing and stretching it, or "drawing" it before breaking into small useful pieces.
Murano, Italy

1800s beads using designs from 13th-15th centuries, wound glass with polychrome.

Brick red barrels with white squares, "tic-tac-toe" or known as "good beads" in Ghana. In 1291, glass makers were told to move their operations to the island of Murano, to spare Rialto, an area in the heart of Venice known to have been making glass bottles in the year 982, from the dangers of fire and to keep closer check on the glass makers themselves.

This subsequently became the centre of Venetian glass and bead production, which continues to the present time, in the hands of descendants of some of the ancient bead-making families (brownish with white, black and blue stripes, squares, dots.

Ostrich eggshell – East Africa - Turkana, Samburu, Ovambo, Koi - San tribes. Rough roundish disksof tough eggshell, centre-pierced. A well-known odd & curious item & one of few beads from eastern Africa. 

Hand made polymer clay beads fashioned to imitate copal amber in many shapes beyond traditional bead shapes. Copal amber, from the Copal tree in Africa, is so highly prized that broken and damaged beads are repaired with wire and sometimes are inlayed with turquoise or coral inclujsions. Several of the beads here are also "repaired" to resemble very expensive copal beads, now very scarce and difficult to find.

Various colors of Polymer clay are chosen and blended by hand, shaped, cured, colored, then hand sanded and polished. When a wire "repair" or stone inclusion is added, it is done during the soft clay stage, cured then glued in later to be sure it is secure. This process was invented and developed and taught by Tory Hughes.

"Ivory" is made by stacking layers of slightly differing tones of clay and compressing. Beads are hand sanded and buffed to a rich luster.
Jade" is made by mixing several shades of green clay, toning with translucent clay and blending to resemble jade coloring.
All beads hand sanded and buffed after curing.

The surface pattern is achieved by creating "canes" of clay with cross-sectional designs. Thin slices of the cane are applied to the surface of a "bead blank" or bead destined to be veneered, then the surface is smoothed, bead shaped, pierced, cured, sanded and buffed. There are thousands of beads on this site made in this way.
Refill these pens by using pliers to pull out the tip and replace with the ink tube and ballpoint from any other new ballpoint pen or refill
Holland: Irregular white bands on black, "wound glass with trailed decoration", traded into Ghana and found at North American Iroquois sites dating before 1763.
"Archetypal Moments" (11 small personal sculptures depicting family relationships of life)

Sculpture is a new found passion for me although I have always had my hands in clay of some kind. These pieces are archetypal figurative sculptures of universal relationships from my life. The transformation from plasteline to bronze is done by Northwest Art Casting in Oregon.

Click here for the complete story, with photos, on the fabrication of bronze sculpture

Sherpa coral (poor man’s) made in Ndia and traded into Tibet
Made in Bohemia in late 1800's, are easily distinguished from those being made today by their distinct glass color and sharp shape.
Snake vertebrae from Guinea Conakry and Sénégal
Spindle whorls, made from clay and stone, found in Mali and Guinea Conakry used originally as weights for traditional cotton spinning.  Somewhat fragile but very interesting. Examples have been found that were in use before 1,000 BC. The remains of the individual original patterns are still visible on many of these beads despite their previous long term usage

Large 'Torpedo-shaped' single beads - beautifully smooth with natural patterning
Agate stone beads are believed to help in the balancing of yin/ yang energy, enhancing protection, courage, calming and healing. The color of the agate will determine the healing and metaphysical properties of the particular agate stone bead – be it a Botswana agate bead or a Moss agate bead. All agate stone beads generally share certain things in common including the fact that they are believed to enhance creativity as well as strengthen your intellect. It is for this reason that agate stone beads are particularly popular amongst artists and students. Anyone looking for a bit of good luck would therefore probably find it while wearing a jewelry item featuring agate stone beads.

Vaseline bicones, produced from mid 1800’s, sometimes contained Uranium salts as a colorant making them fluorescent under ultraviolet light. The most common colors are yellow and green although occasionally one will see purple or red beads. Some beads are a graduated color from yellow to green and some of the very old beads are a wonderful sea foam aqua


I FOUND THIS INFO ON THE BEAD NETWORK~"The mother lode of information regarding this bead is in Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture and Meaning, edited by Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eichner.

Pages 104 - 113, including amazing photos of these beads worn as belts, wound multiple times around the waist, and as hats - attached vertically in a ring, like a crown.

"Seleye Fubasra, the founder of a prominent Kalabari lineage, is credited with making the bead exclusive to his lineage. He is also known as Seleye Jackreece or Seleye Jack Rich. English traders, generally unwilling to learn the pronunciations of indigenous names, gave him the name of 'Jack Rich' because he was a wealthy and prosperous trader. The Kalabari alliterated Jack Rich to Jackreece, and Seleye Fubara is refered to by all three names."

"The story shared among community members about his bead begins shortly after his birth. As a baby, Seleye was given one of the glass beads described above, called ila, to wear when his first tooth appeared. However, the bead fell into a crab hole and was lost. The story continues, according to my source: 
'Because he had no ila, his family was going to have to give him away to another family. The day he was to go to the other family, the crab threw up the mud from his hole and the ila showed a little and was finally seen. The ila bead was given to Seleye, and the other family couldn't take him. When he grew up and was the richest man (among the Kalabari), he went where the ila were made and brought many, many, many back to Kalabari island. He brought so many he stamped on them and crushed them and when they were used, more were crushed. He [still] showed he had many and that ila belong only to the Jackreece compound.'"

["For several hundred years the Kalabari Ijo of Nigeria who live on islands near the equator in the Niger Delta, have imported foreign textiles and other artefacts, overland and by sea."]

Watermelon – Venetian Drawn (“A Speo”)3-layer compound beads, 1800 onward. Produced from pulled or drawn out tubes of multicoloured glass that have been pinched and paddled into shape after the tube has been reheated then rounded-off by tumbling, grinding or heating in an inert powder, to soften & melt their ends. Many well-known beads, including Chevrons & Seed Beads, are made this way (striped slices)

Venice traded into Hill tribes in Thailand/Burma
Made in several sizes and shapes, these are very old rose over white core glass.