Our colourful glass beads are made from recycled powdered glass by artisan makers in the villages around Koforidua, Ghana.
Some beads are made of layers of powdered glass mixed with dyes and poured into moulds; others are handpainted with delicate designs.
We buy our beads directly from the makers and at the weekly bead markets in Koforidua and Krobo-Odumasi.
As a visual clue to the size and scale of our beads, we are phasing in a Star beer cap in our bead images. Why Star? Because it's the major beer of Ghana where most of our beads are made. Also, on the buy pages, we indicate approximate bead dimensions in millimetres.
Around the world, beads have been made from glass for centuries. When European traders first went to West Africa, they found a ready market for their glass beads, especially those from Italy.
Today, Ghanaian bead makers are keeping the bead tradition alive. They use recycled glass - including bottle glass - to create wonderful, colourful beads for both local and international bead lovers.
In the villages around Koforidua and Krobo-Odumasi, bead making provides much-needed employment, as entrepreneurial master bead makers teach apprentices their skills and techniques.
The bead artists use a variety of techniques, but the basic concept is simple: glass + heat = bead!
First, recycled glass is manually pulverised with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder.
After adding ceramic dyes, the powdered glass mix is poured carefully into clay moulds. A cassava stalk in the centre creates the hole in the bead.
Then, the prepared moulds are fired in a kiln. The kiln is a hollow mound of mud containing old car springs which form a 'grill' to support the moulds. Below the springs is a blazing wood fire: fire wood is the beadmakers' most expensive material.
The intense heat of the fire fuses the powdered glass into a bead, still glowing orange as the mould comes out of the kiln. Some beads are then painted with a mix of glass, ceramic dye and water and re-fired.
After the beads cool, they are polished in a concave stone dampened with a bit of water.
Some bead designs are based on old trade beads imported from Europe. Some designs date back to before European influence.
However, most bead designs are relatively modern. The bead makers are constantly innovating and competition is keen to create new and appealing designs.
After stringing their beads, the makers head for the weekly bead markets in Koforidua and Krobo-Odumasi.
We buy most of our beads directly from the makers, either in their villages or at the market. While we do have some favourite makers, we try to buy a little bit from as many makers as possible, spreading our business to benefit the most number of makers and their families.
Any 6 for the price of 5
Applies to all £2.30 packs of beads. Your discount will be applied automatically at the checkout.