Tribal jewelry can be difficult to emulate with ‘Western’ beads. Somehow, they just don’t have that same primitive beauty and rusticity you get from beads that have been made by hand. Admittedly, I’ve often overlooked African wood beads in favor of stone and clay varieties, simply because I’ve never appreciated their aesthetic value. But, after a little experimentation, I’ve been inspired. Cheap, lightweight and strikingly beautiful, here are three varieties of African wood beads you can pick up for under ten dollars.

Rosewood Beads

African Rosewood is a beautiful timber characterized by its deep reddish-brown color and dark veining. Being a relatively hard wood, it’s both heavy and durable, making it a popular choice for prayer rosaries and healing bracelets. Genuine African Rosewood has a strong, slightly sweet smell said to relieve nervous tension and migraines. The warm hues of dark rosewood beads work particularly well with brass and copper beads from Ghana.

Kenya Palm Wood Beads

As the name might suggest, Kenya Palm Wood looks markedly similar to the wood of the coconut palm – a light base flecked with darker stripes of color. Kenya Palm Wood Beads are typically darker than most other types of palm wood; the darker hue being more akin to mahogany. Traditionally these beads are often strung with raw Tagua nuts, which are now a common substitute to animal ivory among many tribes.

Olive Wood Beads

With their beautiful dark rings and fine grain, Olive Wood Beads are the perfect focal bead for bohemian jewelry projects. These exquisite wooden beads – which look a little like walnuts – hail from the holy town of Bethlehem, where artisans have been producing them for centuries for Christian rosaries. Olive wood is a hardy, honey-blond wood with a fine grain and smooth finish, making the beads particularly ideal for necklaces and earrings. Olive wood beads are a beautiful accent to recycled glass beads in muted colors, such as sea green and pale blue.



Dispelling the Myths About Batik Bone Beads

by African Beads on July 26, 2013

I’m a huge fan of Batik Bone Beads from Ghana. With their two-tone coloration and beautiful hand-painted designs, they can really add to the authenticity of a tribally inspired necklace. Unfortunately, many people are put off using these beads in their jewelry creations owing to misconceptions about the kind of bone used, and how it is sourced. So, I thought I’d use this opportunity to dispel a few myths, and tell you a bit more about where they come from.

1. Bone Beads Are Made From Hunted Animals

Despite legislation prohibiting poaching in many parts of Africa, there are some areas where the illegal hunting of certain species is still a huge problem. However, illegal poaching is more prevalent in places like Kenya – not Ghana. The vast majority of the Krobo and Ashante populations in Ghana are animist in faith, therefore don’t believe in the hunting of animals for personal gain.

2. Animals Are Purposely Killed to Make Bone Beads

As mentioned above, both the Krobo and Ashante tribes are animist in faith, and many also believe that their ancestors are present in all living things. For this reason, they don’t kill animals for sport or pleasure. The cattle bone used to make Bone Beads is sourced from cows and buffalo once they are deceased, so no animals suffer at any stage.

3. Bone Beads Are Made From Man-Made Substitutes

The international bead market is saturated with imitations and replicas from China and India, however, these countries are significantly more advanced (compared to Africa) in terms of the technology needed to produce synthetic beads from plastic, acrylic and porcelain. To this end, when you buy Batik Bone Beads from a genuine African source, you can pretty much guarantee you’re getting the real deal!


How to Choose An African Bead Supplier You Can Trust

July 15, 2013

I’m no stranger to less-than-honest African bead suppliers. In fact, such are the experiences I’ve had buying trade beads online, I now only buy from one or two reputable sellers. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you choose a bead supplier you can trust – and help you avoid making [...]

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How to Tell the Difference Between Man-made and Genuine African Amber Beads

July 1, 2013

I love using Moroccan Amber Beads in my jewelry, but, there are so many different types on the market, it can sometimes be a little challenging to work out whether or not you’re looking at the real deal. One of the primary causes for confusion is the notion (in some online circles) that copal amber [...]

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3 Varieties of Recycled Glass Beads Produced in Ghana

June 26, 2013

Glass Beads have long had their place in Ghanaian culture, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that artisans in the region began producing them in their own right. The glass-making revival began in the 1950s when, faced with the prospect of severe poverty, several artisans among the Asante and Krobo tribes decided to pool their [...]

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Mali Wedding Beads: Pineapples, Light Bulbs or Claws?

June 18, 2013

With their ripe, juicy colors and fascinating history, Mali Wedding Beads have long been a personal favorite for jewelry making. But, that’s not the only reason these I love these old Trade Beads. An inherent part of their appeal is the tribal symbolism associated with their various shapes – many of which are suggestive of [...]

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Bone Beads: The Essential Family Planning Tool in Senegal

March 14, 2011

UPDATE: We have received many emails asking where people can purchase the fun bone beads pictured below. We have found that The Bead Chest African Bead Superstore has the best selection of these awesome bone beads. According to several independent research studies, as well as reports provided by statistic database Nationmaster; 80% of the ‘top [...]

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Snake Beads – Superstition, Trade, and Revival

March 6, 2011

Snake Beads have long been a fascinating variant of African trade bead for jewelry artisans, and collectors. The simplicity of their inter-locking characteristic, coupled with the fascinating hues by which they are now produced have made them versatile for all kinds of modern jewelry – including African waist beads. The African Snake Beads you see [...]

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African Trade Beads – How You Can Do Your Bit For Fighting Poverty

February 28, 2011

Persuasive marketing encouraging ‘responsible shopping’ is not a new concept. In fact, the tool has been used for years by charitable and welfare organizations, in a bid to highlight the impoverished conditions many African employees work in, as well as the appalling rates of pay, and even the environmental impact certain processes have upon global [...]

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African Waist Beads: More Than Just A Fashion Statement

February 21, 2011

Synonymous with both fertility and feminism;  African waist beads are thought to originate among the Yoruba tribes of Africa – a significant proportion of the population of which, is now settled within Nigeria. Conversely, the tradition also extends to Western Africa, notably Ghana, where women perceive African waist beads to be both a sign of [...]

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