Africa has a long-standing tradition of producing handcrafted jewellery in distinctive shapes, colours and textures. You can create your own jewellery inspired by African style by using the same raw materials as the jewellery makers in Africa. Your pieces can be as simple as a pendant necklace or as ornate as some of the pieces used in African healing rituals, ceremonies and spiritual practices.
Get inspired by looking at examples of African jewellery. Explore photographs of many traditional types of tribal jewellery, from Nigerian coconut disk necklaces to Ethiopian crosses, and Kenyan bone necklaces to Mali wedding beads.
Determine a style. If you are going for a single pendant necklace, look for a larger bead or charm that has an interesting pattern or colour. If you are going to string multiple beads, try placing them against a neutral background (black velvet is the traditional background used by jewellers) to see how they look in combination. You can also combine a pendant with smaller beads.
Procure African beads. African Trade Beads (see Resources) sells diverse types of African jewellery supplies and beads, and the company claims the materials are purchased in an ethical manner, typically directly from families in West Africa. Note that some of the pieces are ancient or limited edition and come at a steep price, while other beads are more accessibly priced.
Measure out a good length of beading thread or, if the beads are larger, leather or cotton cord. It should be enough to wrap around your neck plus 12.5 cm (5 inches). If you are using wire, slide a crimp bead on one end as well as one part of the clasp. Loop the wire through the crimp bead, tighten it, and then flatten the bead with crimping pliers. Trim the wire tail.
String the beads. If you want a symmetrical pattern, start with the centre piece and add segments on each side. Add the second part of the clasp or, if you are using a hook clasp, attach a jump ring. Pull the wire through the clasp and trim the excess.
If you are purchasing beads online, pay particular attention to measurements and note metric conversions. One inch is approximately 25 millimetres or 2.5 centimetres.
Use high-quality jewellery wire or cords that will not fray with use.
Tips and warnings
- If you are purchasing beads online, pay particular attention to measurements and note metric conversions. One inch is approximately 25 millimetres or 2.5 centimetres.
- Use high-quality jewellery wire or cords that will not fray with use.