Friday, 9 October 2015

A tale of african beads.

Jaymini Desai looking beautiful in a statement piece made from the oldest beads of Africa and old Austrian coins carved as an Ethiopian cross. 

Jaymini talking about the history of beads to a group of ISK's (International School of Kenya) moms.


                                   Jaymini's jewelry boutique in Muthaiga.

                                     Jaymini with her team mates.

I recently got a chance to attend a very informative talk on the history and types of beads in Africa. Jaymini Desai, who by the way, is a‘gem’ of a person and has been making and collecting fine handcrafted beads Jewelry for years, hosted the talk. Her jewelry boutique has attracted the likes of Kofi Annan, Princess Sofia of Spain, Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives and many more renowned personalities.

Besides collecting & selling beads, Jaymini also runs a rehabilitation center for abandoned children in Nairobi, where they are taught arts and crafts as a means for living, helping them integrate back in the work-force.

Inspirational to say the least!

Let’s talk a bit more about her exquisite beads collection. Her current collection comprises of very illusive and rare beads that have been brought to Africa from different parts of the world, mostly through European trade routes. Here is a brief & fascinating history of some of them:

Chevrons, the most popular beads in her collection, were created around 15th century by the Venetians.  The greatest repository of these antique European trade beads is now found in West Africa. No wonder, they are referred to as ‘aristocrats of beads’. Chevrons were once esteemed so highly in Africa that they were only exclusive to the affluent tribal chiefs or leaders.

Interesting fact # 1: The military stripes on US & Canadian military uniforms are inspired by this bead.

Black Coral, these beads are now almost extinct. They are also commonly known as the prayer beads. These inland beads are definitely a collector's item. Jaymini’s coral bead collection with amber inlaid is a must buy for any bead lover! Most of black coral beads are now preserved in museums around the world or are part of private collections.

Turkana, these are the beads from Northern and Western parts of Kenya. They are a demonstration of personal wealth and social status of the wearer. In times of need, even today, these beads are traded for food, cattle and clothing.


Trade beads, these are the most ornate type of beads, also known as the “Venetian Millefiori” meaning thousand flowers. Theses mosaic beads have originated from ancient Roman & Egyptian times. These were brought to West Africa and used as a currency in exchange for gold, ivory and slaves. 

Yes, slaves! Back in the day, a single bead could buy a slave!

Interesting fact # 2: Did you know that the Island of Manhattan was bought from just a handful of trade beads?

Tiger eye beads, which come in two types, are found in Africa. One is called the "Red tiger-eye" and the other one is the “Hawks eye". Pregnant women & babies often wear the beads, in order to protect them from an ‘evil eye’.

Samburu beads are considered a part of ancient African heritage. Theses beads were also rewarded to Samburu warriors –Africa’s greatest lion hunters as a reward for their bravery.

Amber in Africa is a symbol of family, wealth and status and is one of the oldest forms of adornment. For thousands of years, it is believed to have magical healing powers, like cure for many ailments, asthma and blood pressure.

Personally for me, it was so refreshing to find out that these mere pieces of ornaments to us hold such rich and diverse history which spans over centuries. Unfortunately, most of these valuable beads are becoming extinct and the art of bead making is slowly dying.

So, next time when I get to buy a nice necklace made of beads, I will appreciate it a lot more!

For additional information and appointments, find the contact details below.

Contact: 0713090080

Please feel free to share your comments below.
Review by K.


  1. A very interesting article. The author has not only covered the subject but has also taken into account inter-cultural and historic aspects. One word to praise author's effort "BRAVO".

  2. It can look a lot like the peyote stitch, but done properly the brick stitch looks as if the beads are stacked like bricks.orbeez

  3. There is so much in this article that I would never have thought of on my own. Your content gives readers things to think about in an interesting way. Cheap Jewelry Gifts


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