Art Wear ~ African
Watermelon bracelets are
also available in stretchy for $20 each.
Necklaces ($75 ea)
One of my formative experiences as a young woman was
serving in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Since that time, I have collected
Ethiopian jewelry, baskets, and cloth. And now that I can express my
appreciation for African traditions and cultures in jewelry, many of my
designs use African beads. Most of these beads are over one hundred years old.
They were used for prayer or for trade and consequently, carry a lot of
The Watermelon beads are so named because of their long melon shape and striped
sides. They were made in Venice prior to the 1920s and were usually traded in
West Africa. The millefiori beads were also made in Venice, are probably even
older, and were also traded in West Africa.
The glass (red and yellow) egg-shaped beads are from Ethiopia. I have heard them
described as priests’ prayer beads and as Muslim beads. Probably they were used
by both religions.
The silver triangle, half moon, and basket-shaped beads are Ethiopian. They are
called Telsum, and were probably often made from melted Italian coins. They have
some silver, but also contain other metals. Their design is a stylized “eye”
bead and was probably thought to ward off evil or negative forces.
At times, I use new African beads. Some of these are sand-cast; some are
Africa Old and New
In this powerful necklace,
I have combined very old African trade beads,
Ethiopian Telsum and yellow glass beads,
with a few new African beads
to make a very powerful design.
Ethiopian Telsum and
Small Blue Trade
In this design I have combined
Ethiopian Telsum with small,
very old blue trade beads from West Africa.
New African Beads
African beads are always bold, earthy, and fun to wear,
and the new versions of the old trade beads are no exception. They look great
with blue jeans and any casual wear. Most of them are sand cast glass and are
manufactured in west Africa. And, while they keep the flavor of the old trade
beads, they have a new look and are much less costly. The stretchy bracelets are