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Recycled Glass Beads from West Africa

Beads have always played an important role in many african cultures. In West Africa in specific, beads play a central role within many of the tribes including Ashanti and Krobo. Recycled glass beads are today one of the primary productions in the West African bead trade, inspired by the Krobo culture.

It is said that in Ghana alone, there are hundreds if not thousands of artisans involved in the production of recycled glass beads. These eco-friendly beads are made similarly to how the name might suggest.

Artisans in rural areas collect glass bottles, windows, and scrap glass which is then crushed down into a fine powder. From there, the powder is placed in molds of different shapes, the most common being round spheres. The clay molds are placed inside a fire-wood oven, and the beads begin to take their form.

From this point, artisans have different techniques to smoothen and finish the glass, but generally at the very least, the beads will be washed and sometimes tumbled with rocks or sand for a smoother finish.

Beads made from recycled glass are a favorite among jewelry designers in western countries because of their rustic appeal and affordability. Strands generally cost between $7-18 depending on color and size. Some colors are more difficult to find, particularly pink, turquoise, and teal. The reason for this is that the glass used to make these beads is scarce and difficult to find.

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