If you have been following us for a while, seen us at pop up events, or poked around our website, you would have noticed that, besides semiprecious gemstone beads, we love to create with African recycled glass beads. The colors and patterns are so beautiful and alluring to us. Also, we are in absolute awe of the talent and craftsmanship that go into the making of the beads. Understanding the process of making African recycled glass beads has us drawn to these beads even more.
This blog post is all about educating our readers about these beautiful beads, the process of making them, and what makes them so special to us. Let's get to it!
Recycled glass beads have been a part of Ghanaian culture for centuries. Beads in West Africa were originally worn by people of higher social status as a sign of one's stature. However, in modern Ghana, recycled glass beads are worn by all and incorporated into daily fashion.
Making recycled glass beads is a work-intensive process conducted by skilled Ashanti and Krobo artisans.
The first step in making recycled glass African beads is collecting and preparing the necessary materials. As the name implies, African recycled glass beads are made from recycled glass, including bottles, old windows, and other scrap glass.
The next step is to clean the recycled glass. The cleaning process includes removing labels, washing the glass, and drying the glass.
After the glass is cleaned and dried, it is broken into small pieces. Depending on the type of beads being made, the glass is either crushed into tiny pieces or ground into a powder.
After the glass is crushed or ground, it is placed into handmade clay molds. The clay molds have indentations for the beads. The molds are dipped in a mixture of kaolin and water before being filled, to prevent the glass from sticking.
If using the cassava stem method for making the bead holes, cassava stems are now placed into the filled indentations. The molds are then placed into preheated, special handmade kilns. The beads are baked at temperatures ranging from 600-800 degrees Celsius (or 1200 degrees Fahrenheit). The cassava stem will burn away, leaving holes in the beads as they bake.
If making the bead holes with a separate tool, the filled molds are placed into the preheated kilns and once the glass begins to fuse, the mold is removed from kiln so that the artisan may use a pointed metal tool to create a hole. After the hole is created, the mold is returned to the kiln to continue baking.
After the beads have finished baking, they are removed from the kiln and left to cool. After cooling, the beads are polished by hand using sand, water, and a special stone. After the beads are polished, they are washed to remove any sand or residue.
Don't you agree that the process of making these beads is amazing??! The perfected techniques, the attention to details, and the labor of love that go into making African recycled glass beads makes their beauty even more special! We hope you've enjoyed reading and learning about these beautiful, vibrant beads that we love to work with.