African Glass Beads
African glass beads are used in African beadwork. Decorative and small beads are pierced for threading or stringing. The beads can also be stuck to a surface like clay and fabric. These beads find importance in African culture and they look pretty when they honor a celebration or a funeral. The beads when strung and woven together also make for a fabulous jewelry item that is loved by the African women.
The size of the beads range from under a millimeter to over a centimeter (and sometimes many centimeters) in diameter. The most common materials that are used in the African beadwork are glass, plastic as well as stone. You will also find beads made from horn, ivory, bone, pearl, shell, metal, gemstones, clay, coral, polymer clay, resin, metal clay, wood, fiber, synthetic minerals, paper, ceramic and seeds.
Manufacturing Of The African Beads
In the ancient times, the beads used were of valuable metals like gold and copper. At present, plastic and glass beads are used in abundance for the African beadwork. To bring in the glorious touch of the metallic beadwork in the African glass beads and plastic beads, a new procedure had to be developed. Thus, the glass beads from Africa were manufactured by recycling the glass bottles and the manufacturing process is indigenous.
The used glass bottles are crushed and powdered. A binder is then added to the glass powder to make the adhesive and the required colorant. African glass beads are made from the powder glass mixture and these beads are sintered in a kiln after being kept on stainless steel wires.
The beads pass through a very high temperature of around 800ºC, which makes them opaque and clear.
The Significance of the Beads
African glass beads enjoy a very prestigious position among the Africans. The glass beads are used in occasions like funerals, they are buried with the dead and the beads are used in celebrations. However, at present the African glass beads are becoming more and rarer.