6 Popular Kinds of Traditional African Jewelry

The beautiful continent of Africa is well-known as the birthplace of humankind’s civilization. It’s also seen as the first place where people made and wore jewelry.

You know what’s so specially about African jewelry? It excels in terms of both quality and beauty. It symbolizes elegance, wealth, and power.

Today, there are various types of hand-made traditional African jewelry, such as bracelets, necklaces, pendants, rings, and earrings. The materials used to make these adornments include gold, diamonds, beads, seashells, and more.

If you’re looking to add some traditional African jewelry to your collection, keep reading to know your options.

Let’s dive in.

Beads

African traditional handmade beadwork is perhaps the most popular tribal jewelry, thanks to its intricate detailing and fantastic color combinations.

Back in the day, beads were readily available in Africa because they were often used as currency in exchange for goods. The bead jewelry could come in many forms, including bangles, bracelets, necklaces, or even earrings.

Today, famous beadworks in Africa are from the Zulu in South Africa and the Maasai in Kenya.

The Zulu bead jewelry, for instance, was designed to convey particular information about the wearer.

A specific necklace of bead is used to indicate what family the wearer is from and or where he/she is from.

The Maasai women, on the other hand, use beadworks with specific colors and designs on special occasions like weddings and rituals. Let’s not forget the Nigerian Yoruba kings who are famous for their beautifully beaded crowns and necklaces.

So if you’re after that much-needed colorful look minus accessorizing too much, African beadwork should get you sorted.

Bone Jewelry

Bone jewelry is one of the first adornments made by ancient humankind. Apart from being eco-friendly, bone jewelry also offers a wide array of attractive designs at pocket-friendly prices. Bone jewelry is crafted using natural materials such as animal teeth, shell, ivory, and of course, bone.

They are also available in various designs with a combination of various materials like beads, glass beads, stones, wood, and feathers.

Some African bone necklace, for example, were handcrafted out of animal bones such as the Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Ostrich, etc. The necklace has either a spear or square head-shaped beads linked together with tubular bone beads.

Together, they make a beautiful pattern that will make you stand out in whatever occasion you’re going.

Many tribesmen and women wear bone necklaces with the natural white color. Currently, these necklaces are a much sought-after fashion accessory.

Gemstones

Africa is undoubtedly a treasure chest. That’s because a lot of the world’s most sought-after minerals and gemstones are found here.

That aside, the African gemstone jewelry come in different forms ranging from new and antique to precious and semi-precious. They represent several cultural and decorative properties, and are thus, highly valued.

Some popular gemstone producing countries in Africa include Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. Even now, new gemstone discoveries such as rhodolite, sapphire, zircon, and garnet are being made.

Tanzanite is one of the most popular and precious gemstone jewelry in Africa. But, it is, in fact, one of the rarest gemstones globally. It is even 1000x rarer than diamond.

Tanzanite is mined on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Northern Tanzania. Others include the ruby, which is mostly associated with royalty, aquamarine, sapphire, purple garnet, and many more.

Surprisingly, the diamond wasn’t the most popular gemstone among the ancient Africans despite its global popularity. Diamonds were culturally viewed as devoid of color, hence were not traditionally favored.

Clay

Looking for affordable traditional African jewelry? Consider clay.

Jewelry made of clay is typical among women in Africa. The African clay jewelry is made using red and white clay. It is often available as attractive and elegant pieces such as bangles, earrings, necklaces, and more.

Even better, they are painted with various colors to give them that creative and vibrant look.

In ancient Africa, clay beads were also used during batter trade in countries like Mali and Ghana. And unlike most precious stones, clay beads were common among the poor because they were easily affordable. Much of this is down to the abundance of raw materials.

Apart from being used in amulets as jewelry, clay beads were also popular in prayer strands. Today, some countries prize their clay jewelry so much that they even prohibit their export.

Plant Jewelry

Plants are another raw material that Africans use to create elegant, beautiful, and unique jewelry pieces. Materials such as woods, colorful seeds, and nuts are more affordable and available than most natural jewelry materials, so they’re quite popular across the continent.

They can be used to make attractive bracelets and necklaces that rival even the most synthetic costume jewelry.

Throughout the African cultures, exotic botanical necklaces and bracelets come with exciting tales about their legendary uses.

Among the most popular plants for making jewelry is the Erythrina, which has more than 100 species spread across Africa and South America. It produces woody legume pods with shiny red seeds, which are harvested to make beautiful necklaces and bracelets.

Another famous African plant is bamboo, which creates polished bamboo culm necklaces.

This jewelry is mostly available in Tanzania. So, considering the vast and marvelous plant species diversity in the continent, the possibility for botanical jewelry is endless.

Precious Metals

You cannot talk about traditional African Jewelry without mentioning precious metals like gold, silver, and bronze.

Traditionally, African metal jewelry is worn on the ears, necks, legs, arms, hair, toes, or even waist. The availability of metal jewelry is always dependent on local materials, as well as the traditions and customs of different cultures.

In Ghana, for example, the coronation of kings is celebrated with a show of gold ornamentation. Gold bracelets, rings, necklaces, and royalty weapons symbolize glory and wealth.

The Fulani women are also popular across the world for their super-large gold twist earrings. These earrings are made of pure gold and can measure up to 5-inch long.

And of course, the ancient Egyptian rulers were buried with gold artifacts and jewelry for use in the afterlife.

Africa is rich in culture and spirit, with jewelry playing a vital role in upholding these virtues. Today, there are several stores and online suppliers that offer traditional African jewelry at great prices. Therefore, creating your African jewelry wardrobe is very easy.

Just find a renowned and reliable online supplier to get your African jewelry pieces.  

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