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Posted by Florian Cheval on


“But what are these sublime stones?”

This question comes to me all the time, and as I work more and more with these beautiful beads in my recent African-inspired collections for the Kenya Fashion Awards and London African Fashion Week, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a little history about them.


In Ghana, by Krobo tribe , which is one of the largest producers of glass beads in Africa. They are used profusely in their culture, not only for ornamentation, but they have many other uses and symbolic meaning.

krobo pearl - kingdom of Africa


There are many glass beads available on the market, but what I particularly like about these Ghanaian beads is the fact that they are not industrially manufactured, meaning that each bead is unique and retains its handmade authenticity. the hand.

The Krobo use a centuries-old method of crushing recycled glass bottles with a pestle and mortar. The fragments are sieved using a wire mesh, then poured into clay molds which are filled with a mixture of kaolin and water to harden them and prevent molten glass from adhering to them. The oven in which they are cooked is made of termite mound clay and is heated using firewood and crushed palm kernel, which burn at a very high temperature. The molds are inserted and removed from the oven using a long, improvised metal spatula.

Ghana bead necklace

The hole for the pearl is made either using a cassava stem which burns during cooking and leaves a hole, or using a small metal tool. Once the molten glass has cooled, the resulting beads are washed with sand and water, then rubbed against a stone to polish them. They are often rubbed with oil to give them a shiny finish.


Yes, the Krobo are very creative with the variations of glass beads they produce. Here are the main types that you can find on Kingdom of Africa :

Translucent pearls which are made by fusing together bottle glass or glass bead fragments as described above.

Powdered pearls are made from finely ground glass. Their decorative designs are created with glass paste which is "written" on the surface of the bead using pointed sticks.

Painted beads : Finished glass beads are hand painted using a paste composed of glass powder, ceramic colorant and water. After the vibrant designs are applied, the beads are oven or flame fired a second time to "set" the decorations, then allowed to cool.


One of the things I like about these glass beads is their ability to resist corrosion and therefore maintain a polished surface for a very long time

Old African Ethnic Necklace in Coconut Beads


Glass beads have been used as symbols of maturity, wealth, beauty, social status, authority and identity throughout all stages of Krobo life.

They are used before and after birth by the mother, father and child to avoid bad luck and attract good spirits.

Perhaps one of the most important ceremonies for Krobo girls that involves the use of beads is their initiation into womanhood and adulthood when they reach puberty. This ritual is known as dipo and the use of these beads is an integral part of the ceremony. Large quantities of beads are worn by initiates either on the wrist, upper arm, elbow, around the neck, calf and ankle during the ceremony. The favorite colors of pearls are red, yellow, blue and brown, as they are believed to symbolize maturity and preparation for adulthood, marriage and childbearing.

Bead symbols

At the wedding, the bride-to-be is given gifts of pearls of different colors and sizes by her future husband that she can wear after the wedding. They symbolize the new state she has entered and differentiate her from unmarried women.

Political and religious leaders also wear them to convey their power and status within their community. Their rank is determined by the number, type and color of the pearls they wear.

These pearls have such depth, beyond their aesthetic beauty and their function of adorning the body, that it is not surprising that they occupy an important place in my work. I especially love their ability to effortlessly complement silver and gold pendants, objects, pearls and stones that I use. It’s also a wonderful way for us to celebrate and keep the culture of Krobo glassmaking alive.

collection of African necklaces

With such a diversity of types, colors and meanings, what's not to love about them?

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