Africa has produced some of the most riveting jewelry in the world in part because of the ubiquity of high quality natural resources available combined with the artwork of African culture. Known for its pendants, bracelets, earrings and necklaces, African jewelry combines unique hand-crafted quality with sharp and bold colors mixed in with other natural materials like gold and shells.
Perhaps the most prominent piece of African jewelry is the beaded necklace. Historically, rulers and chiefs wore different colors and patterns to represent where they came from. Another interesting tidbit is that owning livestock was a signal for wealth so having bone necklaces also indicated wealth as the more bones one could wear, the more prominent that person was.
European influence is one of the main causes for African jewelry relying heavily on beads. European traders bartered with beads for ivory and African necklaces started to intertwine intricate beadwork to make traditional jewelry. The history runs deep, as the first beaded jewelry can be traced as far back as 10,000 B.C. Africa really is a pioneer of art and jewelry.
Gold earrings are another trademark. The Fulani tribe handcraft their own earrings and feature extra-long gold or silver earrings. Traditionally, the tribe wears these earrings as a symbol for wealth and status. Another luxurious jewelry is Tuareg silver, which can be found in West Africa. People combine the grace of clean cuts and elegant geometric patterns with traditional symbols of fortune and blessings with this silver.
Overall, with Africa’s vast history, the origins of many jewelry and techniques can be traced to the continent. Common materials also include carved stone, bone, ivory and animal teeth, amber and hair. These natural looks bring out the colors of nature and delicate designs of imagination as many of these materials are able to be carved and manipulated into unique shapes and form.
Nowadays, modern African jewelry feature the same taste and materials, but with updated designs. Dangling necklaces and large Sterling silver designs can be found on necklaces and earrings as a whole. Recycled glass is also used for dangling designs and have caught on as something trendy and unique. So if you want something that has the historical influence and unique design that has been passed through the ages, African jewelry is definitely a place to start looking.