Handcrafted African jewelry is known for its beauty and quality. There are many types of necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and other types of tribal jewelry
hand made and worn by Africans that are also for sale. Jewelry from Africa and African inspired jewelry can be great gifts for women and for men. Beyond their use for self adornment these pieces also have
cultural significance. For example jewelry may indicate an individuals wealth, power, and their standing in the society. The materials used range from gold and silver
to sea shells and beads.
Africa is the birth place of mankind and human civilization. It is also where people first made and wore jewelry. Perforated pea-sized snail shells used as beads
dating back 75,000 years have been unearthed in a cave, named Blombos, on the coast of South Africa.
In Kenya beads over 40,000 years old made from perforated ostrich
egg shells have been discovered. As time moved on the African craftsmen improved their jewelry making techniques resulting today in some of the most beautiful
jewelry in the world.
Materials Used in African Jewelry
Through out history Africans have tended to use organic materials and materials that were readily available in their region to create their jewelry. This was
especially true in their early history. Later on trade with other people increased the types of materials available for jewelry making. Below is a list of some of the
more common materials used by African craftsmen.
- Carved stone
- Sea Shells
- Animal teeth
- Animal hair
- Egg shells
African Bead Jewelry
When it comes to jewelry perhaps Africa is best know for its handmade beautiful beadwork. The beads produced in Africa are often called trade beads due to the fact
that for many centuries they were used in exchange for goods (used as currency). The earliest known beaded jewelry ever discovered is from approximately 10,000 B.C.
and comes from Libya. Ancient Egypt also produced beautiful bead work dating back to 2,200 B.C.
Many tribes in Africa create stunning beadwork. Zulu bead jewelry is created based on long standing traditions, and their designs convey important information about
the wearer. For example a particular necklace may indicate where the wearer is from or what family they belong to. Maasai beaded jewelry is created based on strict
tribal rules pertaining to the colors and design. Maasai women wear very beautiful beaded jewelry on special occasions such as weddings. Women of the Pokot tribe who
live in Kenya and Uganda are known for wearing beautiful broad beaded collars and necklaces. The women of the Turkana tribe, who live in the Turkana district in Kenya's
Rift Valley Province, wear beadwork that indicates their social status. Yoruba kings of Nigeria were known for their incredible beaded crowns.
African Jewelry - Conclusion
Africa craftsman continue to produce beautiful traditional bead work unique to their region or tribe. Often this is for sale to tourist and through online websites.
There is also a lot of African inspired jewelry produced that is often unique and stunning. Producing and selling beads has been a major source of income for many of
the tribal people of Africa.