Watermelon beads are a type of glass beads that was commonly used for trading purposes in West Africa, especially during the centuries preceding the ban on slavery. These beautiful African trade beads were a form of currency and were molded in layers ranging from 2 to 6. Watermelon beads were thin and handmade, thus giving each bead a unique characteristic. The top layer of the beads was green and shaped like a watermelon, thus denoting the watermelon in their name. However, watermelon beads are today also available in striped colors. These beads were of great value in African traditional culture as they were an indicator of rank, age, wealth and social status and today, they are becoming increasingly valuable as well.
Kankanmba beads 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 with a few attractive jewelry items.
In the 19th – 20th century, Fancy Glass beads – also known as lamp-wound beads, featured as a vital part of the Venetian bead production. These comprised of beautiful beads which were crafted by hand from interesting pieces of glass with spectacular floral designs. Fancy Glass beads are today available in the form of pressed glass beads which take on various colors, shapes and sizes. Some popular Fancy Glass bead shapes for modern jewelry designs include the round, oval and faceted oval beads. Today, Fancy Glass beads can be used to make jewelry items such as bracelets, anklets, chokers and necklaces for both modern women and men with an eye for fashion.
Batik/ Bone beads are popular in most African countries and are handcrafted from bone and thereafter dyed through the batik method to give them color. The strand and number of beads on your batik/ bone beads jewelry item will vary depending on how you intend to wear it. Necklaces may feature longer raffia strands, while bracelets normally require fewer beads. Beautiful contemporary designs feature batik/ bone beads as focal points for necklaces with antique finishes and superb detailing. Some bead designs today may even feature up to three faces with carvings on both sides. Because each batik/ bone bead is carved by hand, you are assured of wearing a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that no one else has.
Carnelian beads are a type of gemstone jewelry made from carnelian quartz. Carnelian originates from places such as India and China and is used to craft exquisite beads by hand, and in well defined dimensions. Big carnelian beads are comparatively opaque, while the smaller ones appear to be more translucent. These beads appear in colors such as deep orange, red, brown and yellow. The reason for this diversity in the color of carnelian beads is the fact that the bead making procedure involves heating and shaping agate severally. Thereafter, the beads have to be grilled in order to achieve the final desired shape.
Padre beads are glass beads whose origin is traced back to ancient China. In the late 18th century, these beads spread rapidly in use in Southwest and Northwest America, following the trading patterns of Russian and Spanish traders. Padre beads were available in 3 sizes: jumbo Dogons measuring 5/8’s to ¾ inches in diameter; mid-sized Crow beads measuring 3/8’s inches in diameter and the small Pony beads measuring 3/16’s inches in diameter. Padre beads were available in a variety of colors, with blue and white being most valuable historically and the only ones acceptable for trade amongst the Indians.
King beads are old Venetian wound and marvered bicone beads. There is a legend behind the naming of these beads which holds that these beads were worn by African Kings and tribal chiefs during the mass importation of African trade beads in the early 1970s. The earliest versions of King beads are dated to the mid 19th century, with their representations having been made on bead sample cards donated by Moses Lewin Levin to the British Museum in 1865. King beads still hold a place of importance in modern African society where they are prominently featured in Dipo Initiation ceremonies held in Ghana, with the yellow King beads being used to symbolize maturity and prosperity. King beads are today available in a wide range of attractive colors, sizes and designs – but always in the bicone shape.
The oldest African beads are made from ostrich egg shell and were discovered in the Enkapune Ya Muto rock shelter in the Rift Valley region of Kenya. These beads have been dated to 37,000-39,900 years old, and they comprise 13 complete beads, 12 preforms and 593 shell fragments. It is believed that each bead was made individually and not through the heishi technique of bead making. While these beads are believed to have symbolized solidarity in ancient Bushmen society, today you can simply enjoy their beauty by wearing them as a necklace. Making a necklace from ostrich egg shell beads will involve drilling the beads to enable stringing; and thereafter grinding them along a stone to smooth them on the edge.
Snake beads were popularly worn by members of traditional African society as a form of protection from evil charms and ill fate. The modern woman, although not in the least bit superstitious, may also adorn herself in attractive snake beads by simply slipping a strand over her head. Alternatively, one may get a little creative and use a strand to accent a unique piece to wear or to give away as a gift. An exquisite modern design of African snake beads features long 22 – 28 inch strands of handmade glass beads which are interlocked in a design resembling snake vertebra and strung on raffia.
Prayer beads are commonly used by members of major world religions such as Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, in order to count the repetitions of prayers, devotions and chants. These may similarly be used for relaxation, during meditation, as well as when seeking protection from negative energy. For each religion, the number of beads tends to vary, as well as the number of prayer counts. Prayer beads are said to have certain psychological, physical and metaphysical effects on those who use them, aside from enabling them to effortlessly keep count of the number of said prayers. When able to keep track of prayers using prayer beads, devotees are likewise better able to focus more attention on the actual prayer itself.