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Bottle Glass Beads

Recycled bottle glass beads, handmade in Ghana

Nothing gets wasted in Africa and these beads made from recycled bottle glass are the perfect example. Made by our friend Oklah Tetteh, they have a wonderful, semi-translucent appearance.

As these beads are handmade, sizes and colours are not exact - all part of their rustic appeal.

Approximate bead sizes

  • Round XL: 28 mm diameter
  • Round Large: 20 mm diameter
  • Round Medium: 10 mm diameter
  • Round Small: 5 mm diameter
  • Square Large: 18 x 15 mm
  • Square Medium: 10 x 8 mm
  • Lizard Head: 20 x 25 mm
  • Tube: 20 x 10 x 10 mm
  • Star: 40 x 40 mm

Bead size and scale

As a visual clue to the size and scale of our beads, we use 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.

More: About recycled bottle glass beads

About recycled bottle glass beads

Meet Oklah Tetteh: master bead maker

We buy all of our recycled bottle glass beads from our friend Oklah Tetteh in Koforidua, Ghana. We've known Oklah for many years and support whole-heartedly his entrepreneural zeal to turn all sorts of broken bottles into beads.

Making recycled bottle glass beads

Oklah begins by scouring the environment for both whole and broken bottles. In his outdoor workshop you'll find piles of beer, wine and other assorted bottles sorted by colour and just waiting to become beads.

Oklah and his team of apprentices smash the bottles into small, sharp shards of glass about the size of jagged peppercorns. Their tools are simple: a concave rock to spread the glass out and another rock to smash it with.

Next, they fill the many holes of their clay moulds with the broken glass shards.  Oklah has many different moulds to choose from to make beads of different sizes and shapes, such as round, square, tubular and star.

When the moulds are ready, they are fired in a basic 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 glass shards into beads, still glowing orange as the mould comes out of the kiln. Oklah uses a pair of awls to rotate and manipulate each bead in the mould, refining its shape and creating a hole for stringing.

After the beads cool, they are polished in a concave stone using a light mix of sand and water. Finally, Oklah finishes his beads with a dab of Vaseline to give a lustre.

Polishing your recycled bottle glass beads

Over time your recycled glass beads may get a little dull. Don't worry.

You can restore their initial lustre very easily. Simply rub a little Vaseline into your hands. Then roll your beads around in your hands. Now you've got nice shiny beads again. And, your hands are nice and soft as well!

Bombay Sapphire bottle appeal

One of Oklah's most beautiful and popular colours is Bombay Blue, which he makes from - you guessed it - Bombay Sapphire gin bottles. But Oklah has a problem. As not many Ghanaians drink Bombay Sapphire, raw material is hard to come by.

Can you help Oklah? If you have any old Bombay Sapphire bottles in your recycling bin, please bring then to us at the shop or at an event. We'll take them to Oklah on our next trip to Ghana.

Meda ase - thank you - from Oklah Tetteh.

Oklah Tetteh and Bombay Sapphire beadsOklah Tetteh turns Bombay Sapphire gin bottles into beautiful, lustrous recycled glass beads in Koforidua, Ghana.
Crushing bottle glass for beads in Koforidua, GhanaCrushing bottle glass for beadmaking at Oklah Tetteh's workshop.
Shaping bottle glass beads in the mouldShaping the molten beads in the mould.
Oklah polishing his recycled bottle glass beadsOklah polishing his recycled bottle glass beads.

Video: Preserving Ghana's Bead Culture

Oklah needs bottles

Our friend Oklah Tetteh in Koforidua, Ghana makes all of our bottle glass beads from old bottles. Some colours are hard for him to make because the bottles are scarce. These are the really valuable ones:

  • Gin - Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth and Blooms
  • Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry
  • Old Vines in Young Hands - Portuguese white wine

If you have any, please bring them to us and we'll take them to Ghana. Meda ase - thank you - from Oklah Tetteh.

Multi-buy saving - Mix 'n' Match

Any 10 for the price of 9
Applies to all £2.35 packs of beads. Your discount will be applied automatically at the checkout.

Bottle Glass Treasure Bag Water
image for Bottle Glass Treasure Bag Water
Round Water Mix Large
image for Round Water Mix Large
Round Water Mix Medium
image for Round Water Mix Medium
Round Water Mix Small
image for Round Water Mix Small
Bottle Glass Treasure Bag Earth
image for Bottle Glass Treasure Bag Earth
Round Earth Mix Large
image for Round Earth Mix Large
Round Earth Mix Medium
image for Round Earth Mix Medium
Round Earth Mix Small
image for Round Earth Mix Small
image for Clear
from £1.10BBG001
image for Blue
from £1.10BBG005
Mali Blue
image for Mali Blue
from £1.10BBG006
image for Cobalt
from £1.10BBG007
Portuguese Blue
image for Portuguese Blue
from £1.10BBG027
Blue Green
image for Blue Green
from £1.10BBG018
image for Charcoal
from £1.10BBG017
Bombay Blue
image for Bombay Blue
from £1.10BBG019
Clear Amber
image for Clear Amber
from £1.10BBG008
image for Amber
from £1.10BBG009
Brown New
image for Brown
from £2.35BBG013
image for Moss
from £1.10BBG011
Star Green
image for Star Green
from £1.10BBG012
Green Amber
image for Green Amber
from £1.10BBG023
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