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The best of African design

Top facts about African jewellery

Thursday, 05 March 2015

Whilst jewellery is an important symbol of style in any country, African jewellery can be considered special, as it is a style that has become popular all over the world, and never seems to go out of fashion. African jewellery tends to be fairly large and bold, making it an ideal statement piece for any stylish woman, whatever the season. Here are some top facts about African jewellery.


African Jewellery

African jewellery may have been the first type of jewellery

Historians have found the first signs of jewellery ever being worn in Africa, almost 75,000 years ago. Shell jewellery found at Blombos Cave, Cape Town, was made from sea snails, whilst jewellery made from ostrich eggs has also been found, dating back around 40,000 years.

Many types of jewellery have meanings

Rather than just being a part of African fashion, jewellery has different meanings, especially African beads, which come in a wide variety of colours. Different colours mean different things, relating to things like social status and wealth. Red beads are used for tribal festivals, celebrations and rites of passage; black beads symbolise age and knowledge; yellow beads are used to identify a person who is of a high rank; and gold is for a long life. Bone jewellery also identifies a person's social status, as each piece is created from an animal that has been killed for food. A person with a lot of bone jewellery can be considered wealthy.

African jewellery can be made from almost anything

When it comes to creating jewellery, Africans will use everything they have access to. For this reason, African jewellery can be made out of a wide variety of materials, from bone and shells to animal teeth and hair. Some jewellery will be made out of just one material, whilst others will combine a number of them for a really interesting and eclectic look.

Modern jewellery is still hand-crafted

In Africa, people are still creating their own jewellery; most jewellery is handmade and beautifully crafted with a lot of attention to detail. Throughout history, jewellery-making has been the preserve of women, with mothers teaching their daughters how to create pieces, and this has not changed.

There are lots of types of jewellery

African jewellery basically means anything that is worn for decorative purposes, and there are certain styles that are more popular than others. Some of the most popular include:

  • Chokers - usually the first jewellery to be worn by Maasai girls, and given to them by their grandmothers when they reach puberty.
  • Beaded bracelets - popular because they are unisex, African bracelets are easy to make and come in a beautiful array of colours. Here at Lalibella, we have a gorgeous range of bracelets and cuffs, including beaded bracelets and chain bracelets featuring shells and other accessories.
  • Earrings - with African earrings, the bigger, the better! Often these will include a lot of beadwork.
  • Chains of beads - these can be layered up or worn separately. Pieces in the Lalibella Ndito range can be worn as either bracelets or necklaces.

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