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African Jewelry

Updated on January 24, 2012

African Artisan and Hand Made Jewelry

View and purchase traditional African jewelry from all over the African continent. Africa is an extremely varied continent, with a vast number of cultures ranging from Morocco to sub-saharan Uganda and even further south to the modern nation of South Africa. The Egyptians produced some of the most elaborate and famous jewelry pieces in the world. The diamond industry has caused much strife in this continent. Countries like Uganda and Rwanda are finding hope in beaded jewelry made from recycled magazines. Here is a quick look into the world of African jewelry.

The African continent is vast. There are deserts. There are jungles. There are coasts. There are mountains, islands. The people are also vastly different. Yet, the African continent overall has had a major hand in producing some of the world's most memorable jewelry. What does each nation offer that best summarizes its most notable contribution to or chapter in the jewelry world? Here's my opinion, showing both the good and the bad.

  • Algeria - Tuareg Silver, Berber Jewelry
  • Angola - Diamonds
  • Benin - Bronze Bracelets
  • Burkina Faso - Bracelets From Recycled Plastic Mats
  • Botswana - Diamonds
  • Burundi - Tagua Nut Jewelry
  • Cameroon - Cowrie Shell and Pearl Jewelry
  • Central African Republic -
  • Chad - Clay Beads
  • Congo - Conflict Diamonds, Ivory, Brass
  • Democratic Republic of Congo - Militia-Controlled Gold Mines
  • Djibouti - Maghreb & Berber Silver Jewelry
  • Egypt - Ancient Gold, Glass, Lapis Lazuli Jewelry Featuring Iconic Hieroglyphic Designs
  • Eritrea - Gold Jewelry
  • Ethiopia - Ethiopian Coptic Crosses, Lapis Lazuli
  • Gambia - Glass "Donut" Beads
  • Ghana - Recycled Glass Krobo Beads
  • Guinea Bissau - Amber
  • Ivory Coast - Brass Trade Beads
  • Kenya - Maasai Beadwork
  • Lesotho - Clay Bead & Cow Horn Jewelry
  • Liberia - Metal Bullet Shell beads
  • Libya - Silver Coin Jewelry
  • Madagascar - Gemstones (particularly Ruby and Sapphire)
  • Malawi - Lori Leavitt's Panthera Collection
  • Mali - Tuareg Silver, Fulani Glass Wedding Jewelry Sets
  • Mauritania - Silver Berber Jewelry, Powder Glass Kiffa Beads
  • Morocco - Silver Berber Jewelry
  • Mozambique - Tourmaline
  • Namibia - "Precious Earth" Sustainable Diamonds
  • Niger - Tuareg Silver
  • Nigeria - Bronze, Yoruba Beaded Jewelry
  • Rwanda - Paper Bead Collectives
  • Senegal - Fulani Beads, Cowrie Shells
  • Sierra Leone - Blood or Conflict Diamonds
  • Somalia - Coin Art Jewelry
  • South Africa - Diamond & Gold Mines
  • Sudan - Rashaida Nomad Jewelry
  • Swaziland - Elephant & Giraffe Hair Jewelry
  • Tanzania - Tanzanite
  • Togo - Clam shell heishi
  • Tunisia - Hands of Fatma & Fish Symbols, Silver Berber Jewelry
  • Uganda - Recycled Magazine Paper Bead Cooperatives
  • Western Sahara - Silver Berber Jewelry
  • Zambia - Silver
  • Zimbabwe - Conflict Diamonds

A Map Of Africa - So You Can Get An Idea of Where We're Talking About

Wonder where a certain African country is located on the map? Have a look here at this map of Africa!

Egyptian Jewelry on Amazon - Some items inspired by the grandeur of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian Themed Jewelry - By Mandarava Gifts

View a slide show of the Ancient Egyptian Themed Jewelry for sale at Mandarava Gifts. Turn your volume up, they've accompanied it with a catchy Arabic jazz tune!

Algerian Berber Jewelry - Silver geometric designs

Hear some Algerian music while viewing a collection of Berber-style jewelry.

Books on North African Jewelry

The Egyptians, the Moroccans, the Tuaregs - all offering fantastic jewelry amongst their cultural contributions to the world. Check out these books on North African jewelry from the Sahara and surrounding areas.

Eritrean Adornments - Jewelry and Accessories From Eritrea

View footage of real women in Eritrea showing off their jewelry and accessories - see everything from everyday jewels to wedding adornments.

Maasai Beadwork and Jewelry - Fantastic Kenyan Tribal Creations

Beadwork and beaded jewelry are so much a part of the culture of the Maasai tribe of Kenya that they are inseparable. View this video of the Maasai to see how outstanding and prevalent their beadwork is.

Ugandan Beads of Recycled Paper

Beautiful handmade beads made of recycled paper by Ugandan women.

The Ugandan community is bringing money into the country by making beads out of recycled magazines and creating beautiful jewelry with these beads. Various non-profit groups such as Bead For Life and wacia.org are working at distributing these beads worldwide and returning the profits to the artisans in Uganda. A major hurdle to keeping this beaded jewelry both fair-trade and affordably priced is the transporation cost. Shipping fees from the country of Uganda are extremely high.

Buutiti Beaders - See how the beads are made and who they are made by.

Burundi "Vegetable Ivory" - The Fruit of the Tagua Tree

Witness how this inedible nut has been transformed into unique jewelry.

Krobo Beads

Recycled Glass Beads from Ghana

Jewelers in Krobo, Ghana have developed an intricate and sometimes dangerous process to make beads out of glass. Reclaimed glass, mostly from broken auto windshields, is crushed into a finely ground powder with a bucket and a drive shaft from a car. Pigments can then be added to this powder for different colors. The powder is then carefully poured into molds made of clay, with a cassava twig placed in the center. The twig will burn out during the firing process to leave the hole in the middle of the bead. These moulds containing the glass powder are then fired in an open kiln. After firing, the beads are quickly flicked out of the moulds. When cool, the beads are scrubbed clean in water. Decoration, in the form of more glass powder painted on with a paintbrush, is applied. The beads are refired between each decoration or color that is added to them. Watch this process through a slideshow of how these Krobo beads are made available online at The Ananse Village Fair Trade Federation's Online Shop.

You can view another Ashanti Krobo Bead Making Studio in Ghana at the link provided and purchase bead directly from the artisan, Mr. Asumado.

Krobo Beads - Recycled Glass Beads

See how residents of Ghana make beautiful Krobo beads from recycled glass in homemade kilns.

Liberian Bullet Jewelry

Beauty coming out of strife

Akawelle (taken from the words AKA and We'lle, meaning love) is the project of 16-year-old Liberian, Lovetta Conto. Taken in by Strongheart House, Lovett created the project of making jewelry from melted bullet shells.

The jewelry is handcrafted and profits go towards the construction of a new "Strongheart House" in Liberia that will serve as a home and place of learning & encouragement for displaced or orphaned Liberians.

African Cowry Shell Jewelry - Popular in Coastal African Towns, Particularly West Africa

Cowrie shells are very symbolic in Africa. Oftentimes, you are limited to the number of cowrie shells you can wear at one time if you are not royalty. The cowrie shell has been used as currency, for game playing and also for personal adornment. You can purchase authentic African cowrie shell jewelry at one of many African jewelry sites online as well as on eBay.

South African Jewelry

Diamonds, Gold, Silver and Precious Stones

In 1866, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacob discovered South Africa's first diamond on a farm in Cape Province. This was the Eureka Diamond, later to be displayed at the Paris World's Fair. Previously, India had produced the bulk of the world's mined diamonds. South Africa today maintains its title as one of the world's main diamond producers. The Kimberley Mines produced 95% of the world's diamonds - Kimberley has now mutated into De Beers Consolidated Mines. Cecil John Rhodes was the founder of De Beers, a staunch proponent of British Imperialism and Colonialism and eventually created the now defunct state of Rhodesia (currently Zambia and Zimbabwe). Indeed, South Africa is known for producing some of the world's most famous diamonds:

  • The Cullinan Diamond (3,106 carats)
  • The Excelsior Diamond (995 carats)
  • The Golden Jubilee Diamond (755 carats)
  • The Centenary Diamond (599 carats)
  • The Victoria Diamond (469 carats)

The South African Gold Rush began not long after the diamond rush and established Johannesburg: gold was discovered there in 1886. 1/2 South Africans are still reliant on the gold industry in one way or the other. Mining for gold in South Africa is very expensive however, as the mines are so deep. Some of the more famous South African Gold Mines include: The East Rand Mine, The Freegold Mine and Driefontein Consolidated. In 1970, South Africa produced more than 70% of the non-communist world's gold.

African Countries Producing Gem Stones - The Neoproterozoic Mozambique Belt

Africa joins ranks with South America and India.

According to GemSelect, Africa is gaining ground in the gemstone world as more than just a producer of diamonds. The Neoproterozoic Mozambique belt stretches from Namibia in Africa's SouthWest to the island of Madagascar. This land (including: Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar). Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar are currently the most important colored gem-stone producers in the African continent. Nigeria (outside of the Mozambique belt on the central West Coast) is producing good Blue Sapphire currently.

Madagascar is believed to have one of the most extensive untapped gemstone resources in the world. The first discovery of gemstones on this island happened only recently: sapphire deposits were found in 1998 and ruby was found in 2000.

  • Madagascar - Ruby, Sapphire, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Andalusite, Apatite, Citrine, Iolite, Kyanite, Chrysoberyl
  • Namibia - Spessartite Garnet
  • Mozambique - Paraiba Tourmaline, Spessartite, Red Garnet
  • Nigeria - Blue Sapphire, Pyrope, Almandine Garnet
  • Tanzania - Tanzanite, Rhodolite, Spinel, Tsavorite Garnet, Zircon

Tanzanite - From Tanzania

Did you know that the base of Mt. Kiliminjaro in Tanzania is the only place in the world you can find the rare gem Tanzanite? View this clip from Jewelry Television to find out more.

Is Tanzanite Ethical? - You decide

Whilst it is a rare and beautiful gem found only in Tanzania, watch this video about how the gem is mined. 4,000 children descend daily into unsafe mines or dig around in the sand to find this stone, for just a pittance of what the finished stone will fetch on the market.

The Current State of Africa's Diamond Industry - Make up your own mind

In these videos from National Geographic, Forbes, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and Hart Jewelers get a brief overview of all sides of today's African Diamond Industry. National Geographic shows you the reality of diamond monitoring and certification in Sierra Leone, Forbes gives you an idea of the social impact of films like Blood Diamond, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement puts forth its cause that "all diamonds are blood diamonds" and Hart Jewelers demonstrates what they look for in diamond-buying trips to Antwerp.

The Diamond Conflicts in Africa - Read more about conflict diamonds and their history

African Gold - All over the continent

View artisanal gold mining in Mali, the social and environmental damage done by the gold mines in Ghana, gold mines in the world's richest deposits of gold - South Africa and its lack of safety for the workers, Congo gold mines maintained by militias, gold mining in Burkina Faso,

South African Gold

The Witwatersrand area of South Africa is home to the world's largest gold mine.

African Jewelry from AfricaImports.com - Magnetic Jewelry, Tuareg Silver and

All of these YouTube videos are produced by AfricaImports.com, a site that sells imported African products of all kinds: from soap to jewelry to incense to fashions. They also offer advice on everything from African recipes to African Weddings.

Fair Trade Jewelry - Resources to help you find out more

If this lens has opened your eyes to the injustice that much of the jewelry industry has brought to Africa you may be thinking about changing your purchasing habits. Stopping the purchase of African jewelry is NOT a good answer. Precious metals, stones and artisanal jewelry are some of the main ways that Africa as a continent can bring money in to money of its countries that are most in need financially. As responsible consumers, we should ensure that our buying power is making it to the right people though. Read up on fair trade jewelry and educate yourself. With this knowledge, you can make the right shopping decisions and get some very cool African jewelry!

If You Truly Enjoyed This Page on African Jewelry

Help introduce more people to the diversity of the African continent's jewels

If you really enjoyed this lens you should nominate it for a Lens of the Day award. If it wins, this lens will be prominently displayed on Squidoo for a day. And just think how many people might get introduced to African Jewelry. There may be more of a market for these traditional African crafts and more conscientious jewelry purchases - now wouldn't that be a good start? So go on and make everyone happy - share this lens!

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Did you learn a thing or two when visiting this lens? Are you inspired to purchase some African jewelry? Are there some deeper issues you will be considering when you make your next diamond purchase? Let me know your thoughts on this overview of the many facets of African jewelry.

Contact Laura Schofield

*If you would like to suggest any links or have your own photos and / or stories published, please send me an email. I can be contacted through my personal homepage, laura-schofield.com. If you enjoy the work I've done here, I do offer professional copy writing, photo restoration / manipulation, search engine optimization and web design services. I can again be contacted for any of these services through my website.

Will you be wearing African Jewelry - Diamonds, paper beads or otherwise

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    • tom-macgregor profile image

      tom-macgregor 5 years ago

      Its amazing to see all the different Jewelry being made in Africa. I actually work in Rwanda with some co-operative that make earrings & bracelets out of Sisal. There is certainly a lot more hard work that goes into the production of these products than I ever imagined.

    • Vallygems1 profile image

      Vallygems1 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens really enjoyed it

    • RiverCygnet profile image

      RiverCygnet 6 years ago

      I love this lens ^_^ awesome job!

    • profile image

      Halvete 6 years ago

      My mother is a collector of North African jewelry and sells it at festivals like Glastonbury etc. She recently had a week long holiday in Monastir, Tunisia, and came back with some of the silver berber jewelry as mentioned above. It was stunning, some of the most beautiful stuff I've ever seen, and it cost next to nothing compared to the typical sapphire diamonds worn by the high-street honeys I come across every day in London!

    • saraih26 profile image

      saraih26 6 years ago

      i love tanzinite. I also just purchased some african kababa beads for my jewelry.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Where jewelry was born!

    • charle lm profile image

      charle lm 6 years ago

      nice lens , I also wrote a lens about sierra leone and would like you to read it , thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Love the lens, african eygptian and hispanic jewelry are my favorite

    • profile image

      NomadBijoux 8 years ago

      Uauu !!! that is an amazing lens, thanks for leaving a comment on my Amazon Seeds lens so that I could find this!!

      Thanks for putting all that together , important and interesting info!! Beautiful pieces and is just great how you split them by tribes/counties and of course the story that comes with...

      Great!! LOVE IT!!