- Arts and Design
Fair Trade Recycled Glass Beads for Jewelry Projects
Recycled Glass Beads from Fair Trade Sources
I first came across recycled glass beads - also known as sand cast beads, Krobo beads, powdered glass beads, and fused glass beads - as I was searching for ways to make my jewelry business more environmentally friendly. The idea of beads made from recycled glass appealed to me. However, I didn't want to be taking unfair advantage of the craftspeople who make the beads.
Fair trade recycled glass beads (made primarily in Africa) can be found, affordably priced, online. Not only do I support the environment through the purchase of these beads, but I also support the ethical treatment of employees in Africa. On this page, I will share how these beautiful beads are made, more about the people who make them, and where to find these treasures for your own beading projects.
Photos on this page are my own unless otherwise credited. This photo is from Fair Trade Beads.
A Gorgeous Bracelet You Can Feel Good About
This bracelet is made with the very ethically created beads I'm describing on this page, and the Amazon vendor is a certified Fair Trade dealer. This bracelet says spring, earth, love your mother and a whole bunch more warm things. Wear these beautiful fair trade recycled glass beads with pride!
How Are Recycled Glass Beads Made?
Most of the fair trade recycled glass beads are made in West Africa, primarily in Ghana. There are several steps to making the beads:
- Unusable bottles are broken, and pulverized into small pieces and fine powder by pounding them.
- The pieces and/or powder are put into reusable molds - molds are made to create many shapes and sizes of beads.
For beads made with powdered glass, a cassava leaf stem is placed in the center. The stem burns away in the kiln leaving a hole.
- The molds are placed in a wood-burning oven, or kiln, where they stay for about 1 hour. While in the kiln, the glass fuses together.
- The molds are removed from the ovens to cool.
For beads made from small pieces of glass, the beads are pierced with a sharp metal tool before they cool, creating the hole in the center.
- When cool, the beads are removed from their molds.
- The beads are then washed with sand and water to remove sharp edges and polish them to a smooth, clean shine.
- Some beads remain translucent, while others are painted with a fine "glass slurry" made from powdered glass mixed with pigment and water.
The Process and Business of Fair Trade Recycled Beads
Photos and text depict the ste-by-step process of creating these beautiful beads from upcycled glass.
TK Beads is an excellent example of how fair trade works in a business sense. Florence has won me over completely!
A more detailed tour of Cedi Beads and how they create recycled glass beads.
Where Can You Buy Fair Trade Recycled Glass Beads & Jewelry?
There are a lot of online stores that sell recycled glass beads. Several of them even call the beads they sell Fair Trade. Without seeing certifications posted on their web sites, it's hard to tell if they are for real. Here are the few sites I recommend that hold reliable certifications and have good selections of beads and/or jewelry.
This is the site I use when I order beads. I have found the beads to be affordably priced and the products I received were good quality.
- Global Mamas
This site is primarily a seller of wholesale hand crafts, with a good selection of jewelry made with recycled glass beads.
EcoButterfly has an excellent selection of beads to buy for your creations. The site is Green America certified, which has similar qualifications to Fair Trade certification.
- Project Have Hope
In addition to jewelry made with recycled beads, this site features recyled paper bead jewelry, coin jewelry, textiles, and more. Check under "More Great Gifts," then "Loose Beads" to find recycled glass beads you can use in your own creations.
Why Shop Fair Trade?
Fair trade certified products come with certain guarantees. It means that the products are being produced in developing countries by people who are working in humane conditions and are being "justly compensated" for their work. When people are appropriately compensated for good, honest work, the broader impact is in nutritional and overall health improvements, empowerment of those people, and positive changes in whole communities. Look for these logos when determining if the product you are buying is certified Fair Trade.
If you do not choose Fair Trade, you may be contributing to the marginalization of populations in developing countries.
More information about Fair Trade practices can be found at: