Posted 10 years ago
Bracelet materials: copal amber which is not amber at all, but 1880s thermal plastic (bakelite) made in Britain, small yellow stripe glass trade beads, black seed beads. Length 9”. Due to the size of the copal (5/8” diameter, rarest size) this bracelet fits like a standard size bracelet (7”). The British traded thermal plastic beads in many regions Afrika. These were in the form of rods from which Afrikans fashioned beads. The region of the bead can be determined by the shape, embellishment and sometimes color (altered) of the beads.
The copal beads used in this piece are next to impossible to find in any quantity in this size..
There are many elements to be found on the continent that are incorporated into adornment. These elements may be gender, age or status specific. They may reflect the marital status of and individual, the stage of ones’ life, the birth of a child (boy or girl) or membership in a secret society. The materials may be indigenous or trade. In either case they are utilized in the most traditional manner.
It is worth noting that many of the materials used for adornment on the Afrikan continent are there by way of trade. Therefore it is not uncommon to find silver jewelry in North/Northeast Afrika to have originated in Yemen, in East Afrika from India, and in the entirety of Afrika from Europe. The term trade beads encompasses beads that are indigenous as well as beads traded on the continent from other parts of the world. The most familiar grouping and largest quantity of trade beads from outside of the continent, originated in Italy. The Czechs also supplied a fair number of beads for trade. Although some of the most desired beads are cobalt blue, and referred to as Russian blues, the Russians had no bead making industry. However, these and the white hearts (red with white center) were traded in North America by the Hudson Bay Trading Company.
The trade beads were at their height of popularity in the 1960s-70s. They are to be found in museums and private collections all over the world. As time progressed they have become more rare, the finest qualities already having found their way into collections. It is increasingly more difficult to find these beads on the Afrikan continent, resulting in a greater demand.