Beads of European origin that were historically used in trade, primarily in Africa, are known as trade beads. Trade beads are also known as African trade beads or slave beads, which refers to the continent where they were most commonly used and the item for which they were frequently exchanged. Trade beads were used in South America and parts of Southeast Asia to trade for a wide range of goods and services, from Indian spices to Peruvian plants, in addition to Africa.
Beads were used in trade European explorers and traders because they could be made quickly, especially in places like Venice, and they were relatively inexpensive. Traders also loaded their ships with brightly colored fabric bolts, low-cost household goods, simple ornaments, and other decorative items, in addition to trade beads. Traders took advantage of Africa’s well-documented desire for beautiful objects, exchanging their wares for gold, ivory, and, of course, slaves. Trading beads for money was much cheaper, and Europeans frequently used this method of dealing with indigenous peoples instead of exchanging currency.
From the 1600s to the 1900s, trade beads were widely used in Africa, and they were used in such large quantities that there is a steady supply of beads for the modern market. To meet the demand, several companies produce modern versions of trade beads. African trade beads are collected people who are interested in African history and used hobbyists in beading projects. The value of beads varies greatly depending on when they were made and their condition.
Because the Venetians perfected a mass-production method that allowed them to produce glass beads in large quantities, glass was one of the most common materials used to make trade beads. Metal, wood, coral, and other materials were also used traders for their beads. Trade beads were in high demand in Africa, with both women and men wearing them to show off their wealth. Beads were also used in African crafts. Museums dedicated to African history have some excellent examples of African beadwork and projects, such as baskets with beads.
African trade beads are available in single units and strings at some beading stores. Trade beads can also be ordered from companies that specialize in beading or import African products. Care should be taken when purchasing trade beads over the Internet, as it is difficult to determine the true value of beads from a photograph on a website. Going through a company with a good return policy is a good idea, especially when buying expensive antiques, in case the beads do not turn out as expected.