African Jewelry, Deeply Rooted in the Region’s History and Cultures

African Jewelry

African jewelry is known primarily for its beauty and earthiest.

Owning a piece of African jewelry is like having a bit of culture and history in a beautiful art form. And since most pieces are usually handmade, they tend to be sturdy and can last for generations. A certain jewelry may represent a particular culture within the region. The continent of Africa is rich in history and the people have a long-standing tradition of adorning themselves with ornaments and symbols in the form of jewelry.

Africa is a huge continent. It is the birthplace of the civilization of mankind. It is the place where people first made and wore jewelry. Each piece of African jewelry has its own significance. Features such as religious, spiritual, artistic, cultural, or historical element of Africa are embedded on each item.

African ear plug
African child wearing ear plug jewelry.


Mostly organic, as well as easily and readily available materials were used to make African jewelry in time past. But with the passage of time, the variety of materials increased with the introduction of materials by travelers to the region.

Some common materials used by African craftsmen are:

  • Glass
  • Ivory
  • Bone (animals found already deceased)
  • Carved stone
  • Sea Shells
  • Egg shells
  • Animal teeth (animals found already deceased)
  • Wood (sustainably acquired)
  • Animal hair (sustainably acquired)
  • Amber

African Beads

In African jewelry, the beads used are the earliest and the most recognized form of jewelry material. These are used to make bracelets, necklaces, waist and ankle chains, and head ornaments. The beads of different tribes convey different information. The beads of the women of Turkana tribe shows their social status. While the beads of Zulu tribe indicate the family of the wearer. Similarly, Maasai tribe, Pokot tribe, and many other tribes convey their family, beliefs, and status by their beads. In addition, the beads are believed, by the peoples, to have some special spiritual powers.

Modern African jewelry are influenced by earlier times. The common themes like, a woman and child, a couple, a male with an animal or a weapon, a stranger, and more such life events are portrayed in the creative art displays. These themes signify various elements of African cultures. They also have specific meanings that provides wisdom, hope, and well-being to its wearer. Having an essential role in marriages, births, deaths, warrior rites, and dignity. Thus, African jewelry can be used to enrich individual beauty as well as represents the artistic thoughts of the craftsmen.


Article by: Tiffany Huggins, L’ EcoResorts


Also see,  The most extreme body art in the world.