Strand of glass beads "Venetian pastel miniature"

140 €

Venice/Czechoslovakia/Ghana, West Africa, 19th century, private collection from Denmark.

This gorgeous strand of colorful glass beads are from West-Africa. There are beautiful collection of various smaller glass beads. The story behind these glass beads are fascinating but also quite depressing. Glass beads are originally from Venice, Italy and manufactured in 18th century.

The history of African Trade beads dates to the 15th century when Portuguese trading ships arrived on the coast of the West-Africa. The glass beads and other trade items were exchange for gold, ivory, palm oil and for slaves. At that time glass beads were major part of the currency exchanged for people and products. That’s why these glass beads are also called for ”slave beads”. The production of trade (slave) beads became so popular that literally tons of these beads were used to this purpose. Beads were used even as ballast in trade/slaveships for the outbound trip.

The beads proved to be a cheap and efficient trading currency, especially since there were already well-known glass bead making factories in Venice, Bohemia and the Netherlands, that just increased their production as a result of the growing African demand. The success of this form currency can largely be attributed to the high intrinsic value African people put upon decorative items. Glassmaking was not common in Africa. Africans used beads for currency, wealth storage and for the symbol of the social status. Although there was hundreds of glass bead designs, some of them were particularly popular, such as millefiori, lewis&clark and chevron.

Dating back in 19th century the larger vaseline beads are attractive seafoam green shape beads whose gorgeous color is attributed to the presence of uranium salts. These beads tend to fluorescence under ultraviolet light and turn a violent green. Traders call these vaseline beads because their translucence resembles the look of the petroleum product.

Trade beads were used as a currency until the end of the 19th century. After that they took on new roles within West African society primarily with respect to their aesthetic value. The quantitity, quality and the style of beads one possesses or wears shows one’s importance and wealth in Ghanaian and West African society. An inventory of antique beads is given only to someone who will appreciate this remarkable historical legacy and understands its value.

Strand of antique glass trade beads are in good condition. Hemp string is modern manufacturing. Beads have beautiful old patina with some chips & digs. Traces of handling and wearing over many years. Strand are c. 75,0cm long with 154 unique glass beads. Including such as Krobo, Gooseberry and Melon beads.