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    Nov 09

    Africa invades America… in tribal jewelry. What used to be adornments only for African people has become a fad for the United States (and even the whole world!). If you have $3 – $100 to spare, you can buy African tribal jewelry and particpate in this growing trend. You would need thousand of dollars to buy even a small diamond.

    Decades ago, tribal jewelry would serve as a collector’s item. Purchasing African necklaces, bracelets and earrings might even require one to travel all the way to Africa. Nowadays, surfing through the net will already bring you to online stores that sell African jewelry. From these e-stores, you can actually compare designs, materials and prices.

    What is African Tribal Jewelry?

    This consists of necklaces, pendants, chokers, earrings and bracelets. The materials used to craft these adornments come from nature: palm leaves, eggshells, wood, leather, ivory, horns, animal bones, glass, stone beads, precious stones, and elements like copper, bronze, silver and gold. In a country blessed with natural resources like Africa, the only things that can limit the African jeweler’s creativity are imagination, tradition, and superstition.

    Historically, What was African Tribal Jewelry for?

    Jewelry played key functions in the African culture. Necklaces and other types of jewelry were used for clothing, dance, religion, tradition, superstition, identity purposes. Some were used as tokens of love and affection.

    If Americans are vain, then so are the Africans. The latter wear jewelry for aesthetic purposes. Jewelry is considered a part of their clothing.

    Egypt had belly dancing while West Africa focused on seed rattles. The “dancers” wore binbins (beaded jewelry) and brass rings around their waists. The African community used dance to celebrate the maturity or coming-of-age of their women. The ladies would wear arm and ankle seed bands and these would rattle as the dancers moved their hands and feet.

    In South Africa, the people wore elephant hair bracelets to show respect to the earthly gods and to give reverence to the African elephant.

    Superstition also played a role in the African culture. The tribal beads were said to possess supernatural powers. When buried in the ground, the beads would grow and multiply.

    Jewelry also symbolized identity. Different forms and shapes of beaded necklaces pointed to the different identities of the tribes that wear them. Beads also signified wealth and power. Some beads were used as a form of currency in Africa.

    What are Some Examples of African Tribal Jewelry?

    • Animal Hair Bracelets

    istock_000001517743xsmall.jpgOne good example would be the giraffe and elephant hair bracelets. According to an African legend, the wearer of the bracelet would be protected from illness, be away from harm and other forms of danger, and receive good fortune. The bracelet therefore served as an amulet that would attract good energies and repel negative forces. The knots represented the four significant earth forces, namely: water, the sun, fire and wind. The strands of the bracelet symbolized the yearly seasons. It was thought that moving the knots along the strands would create a balance between earth and nature, thus enabling the wearer to be in harmony with nature and its rhythms and cycles.

    • Ethiopian Crosses

    During the early Fourth Century A.D., Menelik, the first Ethiopian emperor, adopted Christianity in his empire. This was even before Europe embraced Christianity. Crosses, aside from aesthetic purposes, were worn as symbols of faith. Designs vary from the simplistic Latin and Greek style to the ones with a more intricate pattern.

    istock_000000742259xsmall.jpgIn ancient Egypt, during the time of the pharaohs, the Egyptian elite wore ostrich feathers. The idea of ostriches as domesticated animals trained to pull carts has been around for a long time. They were also saddled and used to transport people, very much like how we ride horses. Since ostrich eggs are being eaten worldwide, African jewelers collect the eggshells of these giant birds and handcraft these into small disk shapes to form beautiful white necklaces.

    Should I Wear Diamonds or African Jewelry?

    This is like asking “Should I wear a coat and tie or pajamas?” It is impossible to answer the question out of context. If the occasion is casual or informal (or tribal), then African jewelry is very much appropriate. If you are going to rub elbows with the rich and famous, or if you are attending a presidential banquet, then diamonds will be the better accessory.

    In conclusion, African tribal jewelry is gaining popularity in the accessories industry. What used to be collectors’ items are now adornments and clothing for the general public. While the traditional Africans might wear the jewelry for a lot of purposes, the Americans most likely wear it for fashion reasons.

    Diamonds are still going to be here forever, but tribal jewelry is clearly getting a chunk of the accessories market.

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    2 Responses to “African Tribal Jewelry in a Nutshell”

    1. Roberta Says:

      Dear Sir or Madam:

      I have 33 pieces of Antique Tribal Ethiopian,Yemen, Eritria, Somalia, Tunisian, and Oman jewelry that I want to sell as a whole unit. The jewelry was brought out of Africa in the 70′s and I have the documentation from the African government as to its authenticity. The pieces include necklaces,bracelets both wrist and upper arm, rings, crosses, prayer box pendants and pendants among other items. I have the pictures and descriptions on cd disks and would be happy to send it to you providing you are interested. Hope to hear from you.



    2. elephant jewelry Says:

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