I’ve nothing against the use of mass produced Chinese beads for jewelry making. But, when you consider the conditions workers endure, and the pittance they are paid for their work, those hefty discounts you get on cheap imports don’t seem quite as appealing. And that’s partly the reason I’ve become a little more conscientious when buying beads online. Now, I only buy Recycled glass beads from online retailers who have strong rapports with co-operatives in Ghana. Here are three reasons why.
1. Co-operatives Are Micro-managed By Not-For-Profit Organizations
Non-profit making organizations, such as Bead For Life, operate as middlemen between bead-making co-operatives in Ghana and online retailers. This ensures bead-makers are paid a fair market price for their Recycled glass beads, and that they are not exploited by unscrupulous international traders.
2. Sustainable Incomes Mean Better Healthcare
It’s no secret that diseases such as HIV, Aids and Malaria are rife in Ghana. Unfortunately, many areas are so poverty stricken, villagers cannot even afford basic healthcare. In buying Recycled glass beads from Ghana, you are essentially helping artisans to maintain a sustainable income, thus allowing them to access better healthcare, pain medication and treatment for these, and other conditions.
3. A Growing Economy Means Better Prospects For Future Generations
The state of a region or country’s economy can have a marked impact upon the standard of education and healthcare afforded to its people. And while bead-making is only one of many economies in Ghana, its continued growth has already helped to transform quality of teaching and resources available in schools in the Manya region. Access to education has long been limited to those who can afford school fees. However, there are a growing number of schools now receiving funding from the state, enabling even the poorest children to gain some sort of an education.
I’ve always considered Ghana to be the glass bead-making hub of Africa. Such is the quantity and diversity of Recycled glass beads made in the region, it would be natural to assume the Krobo and Asante people were responsible for introducing the wet core technique to other parts of the continent. But, as is so often the case with African beads, the history of Recycled glass beads is a little more steeped in mystery than most of us realize.
There have been numerous archaeological discoveries in recent years that categorically prove glass-making did not originate in Ghana. Historians Eluyemi Omotoso and Titiola Euba published papers in 1979 and 1981 respectively, detailing their findings in the Yoruba towns of Oyo, Ife, and Ilorin. During their investigations, they discovered numerous small quantities of glass beads in local markets – some of which allegedly date back to the 13th or 14th Century. Almost all were made using an ancient technique known as “lapidary”, which back then, involved manually shaping glass by fracturing old trade beads and re-shaping them by rubbing them against another hard mineral.
These early beads were known as “Ateyun Beads”, and are believed to have been made to imitate semi-precious stones traded by nomadic merchants. Since glass itself was not available in quantitative supply, the Yoruba recycled glass trade beads brought to the region by foreign merchants. Coral beads were considered particularly valuable among the Yoruba, and as the supply began to dwindle, they looked to their talented bead-smiths to produce clever imitations. Similar beads known as “Keta Awuazi” were produced in abundance in Nigeria up until the 1940s.
Red Ateyun Beads. Evelyn S./ Wikimedia.org
Have you ever studied a strand of hand-formed African Recycled glass beads and wondered what they might have been in a former life? Such is the depth and variety of colors used for Recycled glass beads, I wanted to find out exactly what kind of glass scrap was being upcycled to make my beads, and how the variations in color were achieved. Here are just a few of the most common waste items used to make beads in Ghana.
Coca Cola Bottles
Their limited production has meant that green Coca Cola Bottles are considered collector’s items in the West. Not in Africa! As far as members of the Krobo are concerned, all glass matter is prime bead-making material, and the more varied the color the better. Green cola bottles are particularly favored because of their delicate hue. The resultant beads are a glorious sea-foam green in color.
Vanity and Cold Cream Jars
During the early 1900s, it simply wasn’t cost-effective to produce clear glass for commercial packaging as silica was both expensive and difficult to obtain. To limit the amount of silica used, other elements such as pot-ash, lime, and sodium were added, causing the glass to turn green or blue. Before the advent of plastic, everything from Vaseline to body moisturizer was packaged in glass jars, and it’s these items in their broken state which are primarily used for light and cobalt blue beads today.
CRT Television Screens
LCD televisions are still too expensive for most African households, but that doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally upgrade to newer models. As soon as the televisions are dumped at waste disposal depots, artisans strip them of valuable craft materials such as copper, glass and metal alloys. The smoky gray of television screens creates subtle blue-grey beads that look just like beach glass.
Beer and Wine Bottles
Like cola bottles, beer and wine vessels can be found in abundance in Africa. Their diverse colors produce beads in earthy ambers and toffee browns, as well as emerald and pale green. Darker colors are often mixed with clear glass too to produce Recycled glass beads with swirled designs and marbling.
Blue Swirl Recycled Glass Beads
Everyone knows that old Venetian trade beads carry a certain worth depending on age, but are you aware that some types of African Recycled glass beads are also highly collectible? Scarcity is one of the key factors which influences the value of Recycled glass beads, however, age and composition can also increase their monetary worth.
Bodom Beads from Ghana. Ann Porteus/ Flickr.
The earliest known Recycled glass beads made in Africa were produced long before glass-making technology was introduced. From as early as the 18th Century, the Ashanti tribe of Ghana were recycling old and broken trade beads to create new ones for self adornment and trade. These came to be known as “Bodom” beads, and were distinguishable from most types of trade beads because they were larger and more primitive in design. Early Bodom beads were typically yellow with a dark gray or black central core. The outer skin featured trailed stripes or a cruciform design, not dissimilar to French Cross Beads which found their way into Africa in the mid 19th Century. Bodom beads were considered among the most valuable beads in Ghana. So much so, in fact, that it is said one bead could buy as many as seven slaves!
Ateyun beads are another form of recycled glass bead produced in Africa prior to the introduction of glass-making. The resourceful Yoruba of Nigeria began to produce them in the late 19th Century as the supply of coral beads from the North began to dwindle. Early Ateyun beads were modelled using the fragments of old trade beads brought over from Europe, and were made to look just like the blue coral found off Africa’s Gold Coast. Early Ateyun beads are scarce and expensive, with strands going for as much as $300 in the US.
Awuazi Beads. Evelyn S./ Wikimedia.org
Be they pitted antiques, or modern trade bead replicas, I find Recycled glass beads utterly irresistible for jewelry projects. An inherent part of their allure is their rustique charm; no two are ever alike, and they’re often tumbled to make them look far older than they really are. Another thing that fascinates me about these beautiful African glass beads is their history. For despite modern day Ghana producing Recycled glass beads in their thousands, a significant percentage of those sold online predate the 1970s. And they are almost as highly sought after as old African trade beads! Here are just a few of the most collectible.
Awauzi Beads are thought to be one of the earliest types of reproduction trade bead to be produced in Ghana. They are similar to early European wound beads in aesthetics, suggesting they may have been influenced by chunky Dogon Beads traded in Africa during the 19th Century. The earliest surviving examples of Awauzi Beads are believed to date back to the 1920s, and were made with recycled trade beads and cold cream jars. They are almost always opaque, and a light to mid aqua blue in color.
Keta Awuazi are mottled, recycled glass tube beads originating from the coastal town of Keta, Ghana, near the Togo border. Unlike Awuazi Beads, they are more tubular in shape, and generally have a smoother finish. Keta Awuazi are also made from crushed trade beads and cold cream jars, but despite being of a similar age, have a far cleaner finish at each end. These beads are produced in a variety of colors – the most common being light blue.
Niusisi Koli are typically cloudier in appearance compared to Keta Awuazi, and are often speckled. The word “niusisi” is Krobo for “underwater” – perhaps in reference to the translucent green and blue hues of the tubular beads. Niusisi Koli are often compared Yoruban “ateyun” beads, however the former were often produced in a greater variety of colors.
Everyone knows there are benefits to recycling. Not only does it reduce the amount of waste going into landfill sites, but creative recycling can also minimize the plethora of noxious gases given off by melting things down industrially. In Ghana, the resourceful Krobo and Asante tribes have long known the benefits of creative upcycling. As early as the 17th Century, they were grinding down old glass beads and bottles for the very purpose of creating beautiful trade bead imitations.
Today, Recycled glass beads
are one of the primary exports of the Krobo region, and are distinguishable by their irregular shape and relatively gritty finish. They are similar in aesthetics to Beach Glass Beads
, which are created from pieces of eroded glass found along the sea shore. Genuine Beach Glass Beads are a rarity in Africa
, and are often quite difficult to drill owing to their already weakened internal structure.
Recycled glass beads
are made using an ancient process known as sand-casting
. First, a large tray of individual bead molds is fashioned out of mud and clay. Whilst the tray is drying in the sun, Krobo artisans begin grinding down the waste fragments of glass into a fine powder (known as “fritt”). The fritt is then poured into the molds, and the entire tray lowered into a below-ground kiln for firing. Amazingly, the clay absorbs much of the fumes given off during the heating process. When cool, the beads are removed by breaking the clay molds against a stone, then eroded further by ‘washing’ or ‘tumbling’ them in water and sand. This process achieves such a realistic effect, it’s almost impossible to discern the difference between seashore beads and beautiful Krobo replicas!
One of the great things about Recycled glass beads, besides the fact that they are environmentally friendly, is that they are immensely versatile. Ghana Recycled glass beads especially, come in all different colors, sizes, and shapes. People who make jewelry use them to make all sorts of creations, including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
I looked around on Etsy to find inspiration for new beading projects, and I thought I’d share what I found. Here are three cool handmade Etsy creations made with African recycled glass beads from Ghana:
This cool recycled glass bead bracelet, or anklet, whichever you prefer, is made with floral tubes and dark brown cotton cord.
Here you have the “African Queen Bracelet”, made with Ghana recycled powder glass beads, as well as Ghana Rondelle “Donut” beads.
It is held together with a antiqued pure copper clasp, and carries an intricate African look.
This is a cool necklace, featuring an African Ghana recycled glass bead as the centerpiece. This symbol represents the importance
of the Earth in sustaining life. It is made with a jump ring, and strung on a 24″ sterling silver ball chain.
As you can see, recycled glass beads work well with a vast array of creations. Whether you are making a necklace, bracelet, or even earrings, these beads can be used as filler, or even as the centerpiece. Hundreds of jewelry makers on Etsy use Recycled glass beads in their creation. Whether it is because of the beauty of the beads themselves, or their care for the environment, either way, they make a great addition to any kind of jewelry.
Recycled glass beads are in high demand because of their uniqueness. The process of making Recycled glass beads varies from one region to the other. This means Recycled glass beads are different in size, shape, color, and other aspects. Most common shapes of recycled glass beads are round, cubic, drops, rondelle, barrel, tubular, disks and heart shaped.
African rondelle Beads are round, flat and can be made from a variety of materials. They are usually used as spacers in beadwork. Since they are highly decorative and tend to give great visual interest to any piece they are added to. There is a lot of interest in African recycled rondalle beads because their form and color invite touch, and because no two beads are the same.
The first step in making the beads is collecting and sorting bottles according to their color. After this, it is crushed to form fritt. After the crushing, moulds are made for the beads depending on the size and shape of the beads you want to make.
The next step is the baking of the recycled glass. This is done in a kiln and traditional kilns are still used in different parts of Africa. After the baking, the recycled glass beads are shaped. Shaping is done immediately after the beads have been removed from the kiln. This is done using two awls in some places and tools shaped like ice picks in others. When the beads are still hot, they are perforated using sharp metal tools.
After this, the beads are cooled down and painting begins. The painting is done using a wooden stick and the paste used is made from colored glass powder that is dissolved in water. The beads are then baked again to make the décor permanent. The beads are then ready for making ornaments.
Eco-friendly conservation is on the world map with phrases such as “going green” featuring prominently. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the need to conserve natural resources which have been depleted over a long period of time as well as energy. Recycling of resources is one of the proposed ways towards achieving these goal especially waste products that are generated at the homestead. Recycling of glass products for example is a step in the right direction through reduction of waste to the environment.
Recycled glass beads are made from recycled glass which is readily available around our homesteads. If not recycled, glass is one of the major polluters of the environment as it does not decompose. Examples of glass products that can be recycled include bottles and jars. They are made through melting down crushed glass in a furnace after which they are molded into glass beads.
Energy is saved in the recycling of glass beads as less energy is used as compared to that of molding new glass. Besides this, it also utilizes resources that would have otherwise been wasted and pollute the environment thereby saving Earth’s natural resources.
Uses of Recycled glass beads include making jewelry and beadwork as well as a variety of other colorful artwork as they can be colored and hand molded to give unique shapes and crafts. As a matter of fact, before you throw out those empty glass bottles next time you might want to give recycling a chance.
Glass is not as easy to handle as other waste products around the homestead but it can still be salvaged and re-used. The fight against global warming and for achieving a ‘green’ environment begins at the homestead with the likes of embracing recycled glass beads and other waste products.
Hello and welcome to my new blog, which will be covering Recycled glass beads and everything related to them. As an environmentalist and hippie , I am infatuated by Recycled glass beads. Not only are they nicer to our environment and the world, but they look great too!
On this blog, I will writing about different styles of Recycled glass beads, talk about how they are made, and direct you to great places online to buy these fun beads! Check back often, as I will be updating this blog regularly.