google-site-verification: googlecb803562c78427f3.html The Tradition of African Jewelry | Kingdom of Africa



Posted by Florian Cheval on


African jewelry takes many forms and has several functions than being simple fashion accessories. It can be about storing wealth; as a status symbol of amassing gold or precious metals or pearls in bracelets and amulets; It can also be a symbol of prestige and power reflecting status in society...or it can simply be a decorative item used to hold back hair.


The oldest African jewel ever discovered was discovered recently, in 2004, in Blombos Cave on the southern tip of South Africa. They are estimated to be over 75,000 years old and are pea-sized beads, mollusk shells that had been pierced. They have worn areas indicating that they were probably strung into a necklace or bracelet.

Historically, African jewelry was also used for trade and barter, primarily in exchange for clothing and food, but also, unfortunately, for slaves


African jewelry is usually created from organic materials like wood, skin, porcupine feather, animal teeth, animal hair and bones. It should be noted that ostrich bone for example is one of the oldest forms of material used. African artisans also use ivory, cockles, eggshell, carved stone and sea and land shells . Especially cowrie shells have an ancient history in Africa and are prized for their durability and their shape symbolizing female fertility.

In Benin in the 15th century, glass beads were expertly carved and by the 16th century, coral beads brought from the coast by Portuguese traders were incorporated into necklaces. In Kenya, the Turkana have been making large faceted iron beads for generations.

Beginning in the 1400s and peaking in the 1800s, commercially cast glass and ceramic beads, brass bells, and coins were introduced to add an additional choice of embellishment. Copper and iron alloys were used to produce simple pendants and jewelry. Ivory and amber also had a considerable influence on trade and crafts on the African continent. The first was particularly popular in Benin in the 16th century.


We note that the components of African ethnic jewelry depend on three factors:

1. Raw materials available locally: Case of Ghana

Previously nicknamed "Goldcoast" due to its abundance of gold, the coronation of kings and rulers in Ghana is celebrated with a spectacle of gold wealth whose glory is staggering. Gold bracelets, necklaces and rings all have symbolic meaning linked to the style and designs used in their making.

2. Products bartered over the centuries: Case of Sudan

When tribes are nomadic like the Turkana, the Dinka and the Samburu in Sudan and Kenya, their creativity - the fruit of their numerous travels and exchanges - is put to good use in the form of personal ornaments.

3. Customs and traditions of different cultures: Case of Nigeria

The lost wax method of casting bronze in Nigeria and Benin, started by the Yoruba in the 13th century, made it possible to model very complex bronze pieces and copper is another metal used historically.


African jewelry is interpreted in many ways in the contemporary fashion world. Black models are very fashionable and tribal adornments beautify and highlight the neck and body of all races. Today, jewelry making has become an art form and a way to express one's personality, a form of individual expression

Since the term "jewelry" is derived from the Latin word "jocale" meaning "toy", it can be seen that historically it has been used as a form of adornment that gives pleasure and status to the wearer.

With access to beautiful stones, precious metals, and other sources of unusual materials like fossils and bark, there has been an explosion of phenomenal design in the jewelry world. Coral and amber, both rare and beautiful, and symbolizing status, investment and fertility are majestic additions in designs.


One of the recurring themes found in art on the African continent is how artisans make incredible jewelry from recycled products. Jewelry is no exception and below are some examples of the creative energy applied in this area.

This is an exceptional practice for many reasons:

- Experience and skills acquired not only in the creation of the product but also in learning financial management and marketing

- Environmental protection through recycling

- Artistic growth individuals and the perceived value in creating something beautiful from very little

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