African Trade Beads
African trade beads play a vital role in the continent’s rich history and culture. You can count them as the repositories of the ancestral wisdom and spiritual tradition. From the fifteenth century, the African trade beads became common in the hands of most of the citizens involved in trade.
Looking to The History Of African Trade Beads
The west African coast started witnessing business deals with Europe in the late fifteenth century. At that time, the glass beads found their way from Venice, Bohemia, Holland to the lands of Africa, where they were used as the currencies. Since then, the glass beads became a part of the African economy, this is how the African trading beads earned recognition world wide.
However, if you are wondering, why they were known as African trade beads, despite being imported from other lands, then you should know that Africans used the beads to economize, since the beads were used as currency and social wealth. Another reason that should be considered is that, the trade beads were mostly used in Africa for the barter system and currency and therefore the African trading beads.
Europe was the brain behind the innovative designing of the trade beads. The trade bead makers started experimenting with various designs and produced a wide variety such as the chevrons, millefiore, feather, striped melons and eyebead. Europe’s main objective was to trade with Africa and therefore they created so many varieties of beads. However, today most of the beads are lost and what remains are recognized as the African trade beads.
The Interesting Tales of the African Trade Beads
As already hinted, that the African trade/slave beads were actually made by the European bead makers. But, since the beads were brought in massive amounts to the African lands, therefore they were recognized as the African beads. However, a large quantity of the beads was also produced in Africa. The beads and other trade items were largely exchanged for human cargo, ivory, gold, and other goods.
Venice and Italy are the producers of the Milliofiore beads, but later they came to be famously known as the African trade beads. They were the most common and famously used in the trade route. The beads were produced by creating stripes or flowers from the glass canes. Then, they were cut and molded into core of solid color. The beads became very famous and its success story can be attributed to the high intrinsic value that Africans had bestowed upon decorative items.
What counts most about the African trading beads are not just their elegance and beauty, but also the experience and history that come along with each bead. It is true that the trade beads were made all over Europe but the African trade beads makers were also popularly known for their creativity and sense of style. Still to day, the beads hold a major importance in the continent’s history books.