A COLLECTION OF AFRICAN TRADE BEADS

 

Property from the collection of J. Veen & H.J. Dallmeijer
Collected in the 1980's and 1990's in West and Central Africa

1. Real amber (fossil resin, age unknown) and imitation amber (phenolic resin, early 20th century, made in France)

 

2. Dark and white glass beads, circa 1600 till 1800, Western Europe, mainly Dutch

3. Various Venetian glass beads, chevrons, king beads, Venetian fancy and millefiori beads, circa 1600 till late 19th century

 

4. Chevron beads, circa 1700, found in Java

 

5. Ancient beads from the Islamic period, circa 1200 - 1600

Note:
Trade or slave beads formed an essential element in trade networks between Europe, not only with Africa, but also with Asia, the Pacific and America, from as early as the 15th up till the 20th century. Made mainly of glass in Venice, Holland and Bohemia the beads were shipped in huge quantities to Africa (and the rest of the world) to be traded for slaves, gold, ivory, palm-oil and other goods desired in Europe. The success of this form of currency can be attributed to the fact that glass-making was not or little known in SubSahara Africa (or in America and the Pacific) and on the high value African people put upon decorative jewellery. The quantity, quality and style of the beads were a measure of wealth and showed ones status in society. Tasts varied widely between countries and even between neighbouring vilages so the variety and quantity of beads produced by the European glassmakers was Real amber (fossil resin, age unknown) and imitation amber (phenolic resin, early 20th century made in France). enormous.

Between the 15th and 20th century European explorers, traders and missionaries carried the beads to peoples around the world and the profits were enormous. The making of, and trading in glass beads of course is much older than the 15th century. Phoenician and Roman glass beads, over 2000 year old, and early Islamic beads, mostly made in Egypt and Mesopotamia over a 1000 years old, have been unearthed in the Sahara and Sub-Sahara Africa, from Sudan in the East to Mauretania in the West.

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