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Powdered Glass Beads

Recycled glass beads, handmade in Ghana

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.

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 glass beads

About recycled glass beads

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.

Making recycled glass beads

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. 

Bead designs

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.

The bead market in Ghana

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.

Magie Relph buying beads in GhanaMagie Relph 'talking beads' in a hill village near Koforidua, Ghana.
 
Filling bead mould with recyecled glass powder in GhanaFilling bead moulds with recycled glass powder mix.
 
Firing recycled glass beads in the kilnFiring recycled glass beads in the mud kiln.
 
Handpainting recycled glass beads near Koforidua, GhanaHandpainting recycled glass beads near Koforidua, Ghana.
 
Florence Marty bead maker GhanaOur friend Florence Marty, master bead maker, at Koforidua bead market.

Video: Preserving Ghana's Bead Culture

Painting recycled glass beads Koforidua GhanaPainting recycled glass beads: near Koforidua, Ghana
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.


Krobo Treasure Bag
image for Krobo Treasure Bag
£10.50TBA019
Large Handpainted Glass Mix
image for Large Handpainted Glass Mix
£6.20BPW901
Medium Handpainted Glass Mix
image for Medium Handpainted Glass Mix
£4.70BPW902
Medium Powdered Glass Mix New
image for Medium Powdered Glass Mix
£4.70BPW908
Small Powder Glass Mix
image for Small Powder Glass Mix
£4.70BPW903
Small Stripes Mix
image for Small Stripes Mix
£2.35BPW906
Small Speckles Mix
image for Small Speckles Mix
£2.35BPW905
Small Counters Mix
image for Small Counters Mix
£2.35BPW904
Large Handpainted Locket New
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW245
Large Handpainted Locket New
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW244
Large Handpainted Locket
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW243
Large Handpainted Locket
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW242
Large Handpainted Locket
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW241
Large Handpainted Locket
image for Large Handpainted Locket
£1.10BPW240
Large Powder Glass Locket
image for Large Powder Glass Locket
£1.10BPW246
Large Powder Glass Locket
image for Large Powder Glass Locket
£1.10BPW248
Large Powder Glass Locket
image for Large Powder Glass Locket
£1.10BPW247
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW239
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW238
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW237
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW235
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW234
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW233
Large Handpainted Glass
image for Large Handpainted Glass
£3.10BPW232
Medium Powdered Glass
image for Medium Powdered Glass
£2.35BPW218
Medium Handpainted Glass
image for Medium Handpainted Glass
£2.35BPW221
 
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