Beads of Ghana

When we moved to Ghana I had no idea it had such a rich beading industry. Old colonial beads would arrive from Europe and were used for trade.  Food, commodities and sadly even slaves were exchanged for beads. There are brass beads made via the lost wax process, recycled glass beads and bauxite beads. It’s said that the market at Koforidua, held twice a week, sells beads from all over West Africa and even some from as far away as Kenya.

We paid a visit to Cedi Beads Industry whilst on route to the Volta region. The first challenge, as it often is in Ghana, was finding the place! A quick phone call once we arrived in Somanya and some guidance from a friendly passer-by and we took the road to Odumase where we located the Cedi Beads signpost on the main road. The factory, if you can use such a grand word, is situated about a kilometre from the main road down a bumpy, twisting dirt track. Once you round the final corner you are greeted with a number of open-sided shelters and surrounded by green farmland. We were instantly welcomed and offered a demonstration. As we walked towards one of the large sheds we passed the area used to store the glass used for making the beads.

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The process starts with the making of clay molds which are shaped, sun dried and fired. These molds must be coated in another white clay before the glass is added in order to prevent sticking, I guess it’s the Teflon coating of the bead making world!

Old broken antique beads are melted and reformed (bottom left above). Glass bottles are crushed in chunks and melted down to make glass beads (top left image). Glass is pounded into a power then dyed and shaped (middle bottom). These beads are often layers of power to create a pattern or after firing they decorated further with more powdered glass. This requires a second firing and the end result almost feels like ceramic.

The firing process is carried out in something that resembles a pizza oven. The oven is made from clay taken from old termite mounds and the heat simply controlled by adding or removing wood at the back. The beads have to melted then worked quickly by hand to shape the hole, then left to cool.

Once cooled, the beads are washed with sand to remove the not stick clay coating, and left to dry in the sun. Finally they are ready to be turned into beautiful jewelry for sale in their onsite shop. There is also a Cedi Bead shop on the main road between Tema and the Volta region. Despite it’s rather humble appearance Cedi Beads actually ship worldwide although on a relatively small scale. Since they are made by hand each piece is unique and having now visited the factory twice I am obsessed with making my own beaded jewelry, are you tempted ?