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African Beadmaking - Traditional Arts of the Sub-Saharan Region

Beads were made in a glass powder mould. Crushed glass trade beads were layered in each hole around a 2 inch piece of cassave fibre. The flower-like pattern is made by placing an entire bead in the mould with the glass dust.

When all the holes are filled, the entire mould is placed in a furnace, covered with a tin plate and fuel, and is baked for two or three hours until the glass particles fuse. The beads are given a finishing polish on a whetstone.

Before the introduction of glass trade beads, Africans made beads from a variety of natural resources. Organic beads are still made and used in Africa, although less common than glass beads.

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