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All About African Trade Beads

The history of African trade beads

Trade beads, also called slave beads, were decorative beads used between the sixteenth and the twentieth century as currency. African trade beads are trade beads given to Africans in exchange for slaves, goods, and services. The goods included ivory, gold, palm oil, and other items the Europeans wanted.

These beads were made to make the passage of Europeans in Africa easy. Venice was the major producer of these beads. These beads did not have a set design. Rather, they were produced according to the demand of the person commissioning them. These beads were handmade and no two were the same. Other African trade beads were made in India and transported to West Africa by Arab traders through North Africa. Note that the name ‘African trade beads’ is also used for a particular type of trade beads made in Venice, the Millefiori or thousand flower beads.

African trade beads were successfully used because Africans place high intrinsic value on decorative items. They had not seen such items before and they were easily impressed. The Africans used the beads as currency, as a store of wealth, to beautify themselves, and as a sign of social status.

Many of these beads have survived over the years. However, you should note that they are worn and you should therefore not go for them if you are looking for clean and perfect beads. These beads are usually bought by those who appreciate the history behind them and collectors. Today, African trade beads are used to make earnings, necklaces, and other jewels.

African trade beads increase in value each year. This has been fuelled by a better understanding of their history and the use of the internet. The internet makes it possible for collectors to showcase their beads to millions of people conveniently, cheaply, and anonymously.

Buying African Trade Beads

Checking for Authenticity

There are many unscrupulous people claiming to sell African trade beads. To avoid getting scammed, you should do research on how these trade beads look like. If you get beads that are not worn, you should know that these are not genuine. The best place to buy genuine African trade beads is from a trusted site. If possible, have a jewel expert look at if before making a purchase. You should be particularly careful when buying from a website because it is hard to trace the seller if you discover you have been conned. You should consider asking for recommendations from someone who has bought authentic African trade beads before.

Personal preference and use

The authenticity of the African trade beads is not the only thing to consider when buying the beads. Consider the purpose of the purchase. This means if you are buying the beads to wear them, you should find beads that are appealing. In this case, the age and the history is inconsequential – only the quality. However, if you are buying the beads as a collector, this does not really matter – what matters is their age and their history. You should consider your personal preference because what attracts on person is not guaranteed to attract the other. You will be spending a lot of money on the beads and you should therefore buy something that makes you happy.

The source

It is important that you consider the source. You can buy the beads from normal mortar and brick stores or from the internet. Each option has pros and cons that you should weigh against each other. The internet is convenient since you can make a purchase 24/7, all year round and because you can do this at your own home, it is cheap because there are many companies in competition and they have to lower their prices to attract and retain clients, it is anonymous since all transactions are done online, and you get to choose from many options, meaning the chances of getting the beads you want are very high. However, buying online exposes you to a risk of internet fraud and you cannot accurately tell the quality of the beads just by looking at pictures. You also have to give time for shipping.

On the other hand, when you buy from a normal brick and mortar store, you get to see and feel the beads, meaning you will be sure of what you are buying and there is little risk of getting scammed. You also get the beads immediately after purchase. However, you are likely to pay more and you only get to look at the stores near you, meaning you can fail to get what you want.

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