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Melissa's African Trade Beads


From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 17:41:56 PST

Here is some information I found on two sites:

Many of the old beads were made in Europe and India and transported to West
Africa initially by Arab traders, overland from North Africa and from
around 500 years ago, by the European traders in their sailing ships, to be
used as currency to purchase gold, ivory and palm oil etc. on the
triangular trading routes from Europe to West Africa then onto the West
Indies to return with produce from the plantations

About African Trade Beads

Made in Europe since the fifteenth century and used as money to trade for
gold, ivory, spices, palm oil, and even slaves, these antique Venetian
millefiori and other fancy beads, (each unique and hand made), have been
artfully spaced and put together to produce jewelry which enhances each
beads inherent beauty. Millefiori is an Italian word meaning "a thousand
flowers". Although these beads are known as millefiori in this country, in
Venice, (and more specifically Murano where they were made), they are
mainly known by the name mosaic. The many factors involved in making a
millefiori bead, not to mention the size and shape, make the possibilities
for this bead virtually limitless. This great variety always leaves room
for exciting new discoveries. It seems as if the West Coast of Africa
absorbed practically the whole production of millefiori beads, and we do
not know for sure if the story that they were used as ballast on ships
bound for Africa is true, but it would actually make sense.

A sign of wealth, these beads were often buried with their native owners,
and have been known to come up in the sands of the desert.

Here is a site that has many examples/images:

A lot of beads similar to Melissa's can be found on pages of AncientGlass