The History of Trade Beads

African Trade Beads with Text

African style beads and trade beads are so popular in current DIY jewelry making. You know the style – rustic  texture with vibrant colors, marked with very rhythmic, tribal patterns. These trade beads have been around for a very long time. Trade beads date back to as early as the 15th century and were used up until as late as the 20th century as currency. That’s 100s of years that people have been using beads to adorn themselves, trade for other goods, and even as money itself.

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sourced from Amazon.com

The history of these particular beads started when Portuguese trading ships  would travel to West Africa to exploit its resources of gold, slaves, ivory and palm oil.The glass making technologies of Europe were far further developed than anything Africa had seen, which made these beads very highly valued to the African elite looking to adorn themselves and flash their wealth.

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The first record of trade beads in the US was from a diary log written by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. Because the Native Americans were already familiar with beads and their uses they readily accepted this beautiful new glass style as trade for furs, horses and other items.

African Trade Beads from Jesse James Beads

We as a society have been adorning ourselves for so long, it’s really quite incredible to think how long our favorite hobby dates back to. Trade beads and their history have always been of intrigue to us at Jesse James Beads, so that’s why we are really excited about these new sets of beads that are now available at the online shop.

African Trade Bead Kit 1

Serengeti Trade Bead Kit from Jesse James

African Trade Bead Kit 3

Nile River Trade Bead Kit from Jesse James

African Trade Bead Kit 2

Desert Night Trade Bead Kit from Jesse James

Right now at JesseJamesBeads.com we have five new sets of African trade beads kitted up with beads to match. These new kits are super exclusive, just 5 of each style are available. You get a ring of beautiful trade beads, one mix and a free spool of silk thread.

How to knot silk with trade beads to create DIY silk knotted jewelry pieces by Candie Cooper for Jesse James Beads

Candie Cooper has designed an awesome project teaching silk knotting which features these beautiful, ethnic kits (get the instructions for Candie’s knotted African bead necklace).

How to knot silk with trade beads to create DIY silk knotted jewelry pieces

And, should you need a new tool, we have the easy knotter Knot-a-Bead on 20% off discount this week. Who loves ya?

Thanks for checking out our first history of beading blog! Let us know what you think in the comments below, and please feel free to share. Have any other bits of beading history you’d like to see featured on the JJB Design Blog? Please do comment below, we encourage your inspiration and love hearing about fresh ideas.

Happy Beading Trails!

Sarah James

www.jessejamesbeads.com

*Bead history sourced from Tradebeads.org and The V&A

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