Additional information: For more information, please see our comprehensive guide to African-made beads, African Beads: Jewels of a Continent, hardcover, 216 pages, 163 color photographs, available from Africa Direct.
These are African made powder glass beads which are called "Akoso" beads in the trade. The origins and date of manufacture for these beads is still in dispute but for the most part, these have been dated to the late 1800s/early 1900s. These beads were made from glass (most likely Venetian beads) which was ground to a fine powder. The powder was then placed in a mold and fired in open air ovens until the powder glass fused into solid glass. Many of these old "Akoso" beads have fragments of old Venetian "green hearts" imbedded in them. Some of them have what appear to be "melted" white heart beads imbedded in them. The larger and more sought after "Akoso" beads have a double "U" criss-cross pattern. How this pattern was applied is another controversy. Some experts say this pattern was pre-formed of molten glass and hot worked onto the beads, others say they were formed in the molds prior to the beads being made.
Most of the older African powder glass beads like "Akoso" and "Bodom" beads are still somewhat of a mystery and research on them continues today. In Africa, these beads are held in the highest esteem and usually only worn for celebrations, funerals, and are often buried with the dead. There is much folklore about their magical powers as well.
"Akoso" beads are becoming rarer and rarer to find in the bead market today. Fewer beads are coming in from Africa with the Traders. Most of the "Akoso" beads in America are now in private collections. We feel fortunate to have these to offer.
To learn more about these intriguing beads please see Ornaments From the Past: Bead Studies After Beck (Bead Study Trust), Collectable Beads (Liu), The History of Beads (Dubin) and The Bead is Constant (Wilson).