When it comes to beautiful jewelry perhaps continent of Africa is best known for its handmade beautiful beadwork. The beads that are made in Africa are often called trade beads because in many centuries they were used in exchange for goods or used as currency. Now called “African beads” jewelry were discovered from approximately 10,000 B.C. and they comes from Libya, but then ancient Egypt also produced beautiful designs of bead work dating back to 1500 B.C.
Makai beaded jewelry is made based on strict tribal rules associated with the colors and layout. Makai women wear really beautiful beaded jewelry on special occasions for instance weddings. Women of the Pokot tribe who live in Kenya and Uganda are recognized for wearing beautiful broad beaded collars and also necklaces. The women from the Turkana tribe, who normally live in the Turkana district inside Kenya’s Rift Valley Land, wear beadwork that implies their social status. Yoruba kings of Nigeria were known because of their incredible beaded crowns.
African trade beads
Historically, African jewelry is also used to barter and trade with and sometimes mainly in exchange for cloth, food or other products, but most of the time they were used also more sadly for slaves. Jewelry in Africa is seldom just ornamental; rituals, religion and ceremonies play a large part. In Africa all people were different jewelries and to tell the truth in some cases from a very early age they started to wear them and may be replaced at a certain age or status event like reaching manhood, puberty or sometimes marriage.
Craftsman in Africa continue to produce their beautiful traditional bead work unique to their tribe or region. Selling and producing beads and then jewelry from them has been a major source of income for many people in Africa. Jewelry in Africa dates back thousands of years and the oldest jewelry which was find in this was discovered in a cave in South Africa and it is believed to be about 74,300 years old.
Tribal Jewelry in African were made from natural materials such as amber, paper, bone, wood, ivory, metal, shells, hair, stone and a lot of other natural materials. Those materials were unique and so beautiful. These various materials were fashioned into waist chains, necklaces, ankle chains, bracelets and head or body adornments.
Tribal jewelry in Africa were traditionally used to tell about something or to tell a story. Depending on the African culture and times, jewelry has been used as a cultural affiliation symbol or designated as a status. Usually those things were used for ritual dances, waist chains or beaded belts were used at wedding ceremonies, to celebrate happy moments in family and cowrie shells have even been used as a form of money to exchange with other products. Even today as in the past, people in this place use African Jewelry to enhance personal beauty, personal style and in the same time displays the artistry of African craftsmen.
In all cultures of the world, jewelry is an important aspect of fashion especially for woman. Maybe this is the reason why those products are made from a variety of materials and usually of whatever resource is deemed valuable by the culture.
Jewelry can stand you for many things. Sometimes jewelry can show off your wealth, keep you one with the earth, protect you from evil, or maybe will bless you with good luck and all this according to the African legend, of course. Africans shares those traits culture with other cultures’ jewelry, but it also has interesting and a long past because they truly believe that every jewelry has something magic inside.
African Jewelry Types
There are a lot of different types of African jewelry. Some of the common and special styles of jewelry are beaded jewelry, gold jewelry, cowrie shell jewelry, elephant hair jewelry and some bone jewelry. Africans made and still make bracelets, necklaces, anklets another jewelry from different natural materials. Africans used a lot of materials for their jewelry. For example Elephant hair jewelry are made of elephant hair. Other type is the oldest beaded jewelry which was made of ostrich egg shells.
Beliefs African Jewelry
African jewelry was not only worn for purely decorative or beauty purposes. Every piece of jewelry possessed some legend or significance behind it. For example, legend says that if you wear elephant hair bracelets you will be protected from harm and illness and you will be blessed with good fortune. Usually those bracelets have two, four or six loops, each one of them represents an earthly force. The two knots of elephant hair bracelet signify and represent the earth which represent fertility and ancestors and nature which represent spirits and forces. Therefore, it is believed to create balance between nature and earth.
The four knot elephant hair bracelet signifies the elements of namely such as fire, snow, sun, wind, water or better to say everything that is about Mother Nature. The strands of elephant hairs which pass the knots symbolize and represent the seasons of a year, and for Africans this issue is so important because they have a special relation with seasons of the year and the six knot elephant hair bracelet signify and represent all things together that we mention before but this kind of bracelet isn’t so famous in Africa because it is a little complicated to make and it doesn’t looks so pretty.