What is the history and importance of African bead jewelry?

- Oct 11, 2018-

Bead jewelry has been made all across the African continent for thousands of years. The oldest piece of jewelry ever discovered was made of shell beads and found in South Africa. It was believed to date back over 75,000 years. In Kenya, beads made from ostrich egg were discovered and estimated to be over 40,000 years old.

African beadwork is used for adornment, to show status or tribal affiliation, and for religious ceremonies. In the past, strings of beads were also used as currency when trading between tribes or nations within Africa.

Traditional materials for beads are organic materials that are found locally, such as ivory, bone, stones, shells, wood, and amber. African beadwork can be fashioned into many types of jewelry, including necklaces, collars, bracelets, belts, anklets, and earrings.