Aja beads were historically made in Venice in the early 20th century, from drawn glass tubes which were cooled and cut into small slices. Once cut, the slices of drawn cane were thereafter exposed to heat until the glass softened or slumped. This caused the beads to flatten and their hard cut edges to soften and become rounded. Experts speculate that the process of slumping was in actual fact carried out in Africa as there is no evidence of the slumped slices ever being sold in Venice. Aja beads range in size, color and canes with the most spectacular being crafted from Rosetta or chevron cane. These beautiful and somewhat unusual beads are today used to craft exquisite jewelry pieces such as those featuring 4-layer “yellow jacket” slices.
Heishi beads have a fascinating origin which is linked to the ancient history of the Santo Domingo and San Felipe Pueblo Indians who were most proficient in the crafting of these beads. Experts regard Heishi beads as the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico and North America, as they pre-date to the period before the introduction of metals. The “heishi” in heishi beads literally means “shell”, with particular reference to the pieces of shell which are drilled and ground into the beads and then strung into necklaces. Today, however, heishi has come to refer to tiny beads made by hand out of any naturally occurring material.
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.
Tuareg beads originate from the nomadic Tuareg people of North Africa. Tuareg beads are created by skilled Tuareg bead makers who pass the knowledge on to future generations, just as their forefathers have been doing for over a thousand years. These beads are unique and high quality and used to create exquisite jewelry items. Some common items crafted include crosses made using the ancient lost wax technique of bead making. Here, softened wax is shaped and applied in a clay mold which is then fired using a goat skin bellows. The basic Tuareg bead cross can then be shaped, engraved and thereafter polished to create an awe-inspiring jewelry item.
Tabular brass beads are more flat than round and were common adornments amongst members of African traditional society. In countries such as Ghana, tabular brass beads were hand made by bead makers from the Ashanti tribe to create one-of-a-kind pieces such as beautiful triangle matched beads crafted from brass through the lost wax technique. What makes each tabular brass bead unique is the fact that a mold is specifically prepared for each bead, which is thereafter destroyed in order to extract the bead. Also hand strung, tabular brass beads are ideal for designing elaborate pieces of jewelry or simply wearing them as they come in the form of necklaces or bracelets.
Brass pendant beads are a type of African trade beads which are hand-made and crafted out of metal. Brass pendant beads are made from brass which is an alloy of copper that contains a significant amount of zinc as well. These pendant beads work well as beautiful centerpieces for a wide range of jewelry items. For instance, you could add a brass pendant bead as the focal point on a strand of French glass beads to create an exquisite necklace. Brass pendant beads are products of centuries of brass bead making in West Africa, and most have been produced by the age old ancient bead making method referred to as the lost wax technique.
Coin metal is a metallic material which is fashioned into a disc and often used as currency. Some common metals used to make coins include brass, silver, exotic metals such as gold and silver, as well as other metals like nickel, zinc and copper. Coin metal beads are also referred to as nickel metal beads and are commonly available in metals such as brass and silver. These beads receive their name from the particular coin metal used in their construction. As such, coin metal beads may take the form of coin silver beads and coin brass beads.
Originally found in West African countries such as the Ivory Coast, boule beads are made from brass and strung to produce beautiful jewelry. Boule beads were part of a family tradition of bead making, with tools and techniques being passed on from generation to generation. The Hausa of West Africa were particularly known to dominate the bead trade as they traveled extensively to locate beads in villages, modify them and sell them to both local and foreign merchants. These beads were originally used to make ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets that would serve as symbols of power, wealth and status in society.
Photos courtesy of Patricia Hiss – Patrician Crafts – http://www.patriciancrafts.etsy.com/
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