What is to know about Ghanaian recycled glass beads

Krobo powder glass beads

Recycled Glass Beads and the Sustainable Craft Industry in Ghanaian

Ghanaian recycled glass beads are one of the most popular traditional beads you can find today. So, here is the amazing fact about Krobo beads. Firstly, these colourful beads make such authentic and huge fashion statements. Furthermore, making them stand out from other handmade beads are this, the dazzling array of colours in which they are crafted. Most importantly, the process and materials used will trigger your imagination. In fact, these immaculate beads are made from no other than items thrown away. Exactly so, discarded glass bottles, jars and broken windowpanes, when transformed, becomes what you and I cherish as recycled glass beads. Not only this, but what is to know about Ghanaian recycled beads are that, they help safe the envionment.

So, these glass wastes do not decompose. This means, eventually they all end up clogging the landfills. Did you know that littered glass pieces are a health hasard? Yes, a nasty cut in your foot could potentially end you in hospital. So, needless to say that Krobo beads and the people who make them are helping to save our environment. Which is why, local artisans task themselves to hand pick as much of these discarded broken glass from the landfills. After this, the rescued glass get sorted into different sizes and colours. The next step is to wash off all the dirts and unwanted bits so that only glass materials is left. In a nut shell, recycling glass for any use help reduce environmental waste. Why many art lovers like myself love African Ghanaian Krobo beads is this. It is such an environmentally friendly way of making a living for Jewellery designer all over the world.

African Jewellery Melbourne
Krobo beads breacelets, stretch bracelets, blue marbled design bracelets with cowries and charm

Krobo beads, are indeed, one of Ghana’s favourite art and fashion icons. Aside this, people all over the world have embraced this age old, handcrafted bead for what it is worth. The reason for this is simple. Krobo beads are not only strong, whether as individual beads or when strung together. Recycled glass beads are truly beautiful, sometimes with intricate hand painted designs. More so, some designs do have symbolic meanings. If you asked me, I would confidently say that you certainly must have Krobo beads amongst your bead stashes.

Recycled Glass beads or Trade Beads

Recylced glass beads or Trade Beads, all refer to the same Krobo beads. As you dig deep into the word of traditional beads, you are likely to come across some of these different names describing the same beads. Ghanaian Krobo beads are sometimes referred to as traditional glass beads, trade beads or recycled glass beads. So, in Ghana, in addition to the known traditional artefacts such as our traditional woven Ashanti and Ewe Kente, symbolic carvings and totems, Krobo beads from Krobo Odumase are well known and highly sought. Now, equally interesting, aside learning how these beads are crafted, is to acquaint ourselves with the Krobo people.

The local people who live Krobo Odumase, a small town located in Southern Ghana are referred to as Krobos. Traditionally, they are also known as the Klo. Klo or Krobos are part of an ethnic group of people usually referred to as the Adangbe. There is a whole lot of history about this unique Ghanaian tribe, but I will not go into that today. The native people speak the Krobo dialect. It is like the Ga language, spoken by the people of Accra or Ga Mashie. I speak Ga, some of them do speak this dialect too. Otherwise, we talk in Twi language most widely spoken dialect in Ghana. It is just about a two-hour drive from the capital city of Ghana, Accra.

Contemporary Jewellery Designers are using authentic Krobo Beads

Contemporary Jewelllery designers are using authentic Krobo beads because they make good sustainable and ethical statement pieces. So, this where you can find good quality recycled glass beads to buy and wear. The good thing is that Krobo beads sold in my shop are authentic. More over, I handpick them directly from the local bead traders in Krobo Odumase. Krobo women are very friendly and likes to do good business. They trade fair, which is also why I like trading with them by paying fair process for their traditional bead wares.

I love Ga traditions including lifestyle, festivities, and fashion. Also, to emphasise my love for Ga, I studied the language as part of our High School academic curriculum back in those day in Ghana. So, this was how I learnt to read and write Ga language and, I made good grades too. For this reason, it might not be surprising to you that most of the jewellery names  in my online shop bear Ga or Krobo names. For example, Resin Bead earring, “Ojekoo” means good morning. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you wish to learn basic Ga words. You can impress your friends or the locals when you next visit Accra as tourist. Ghana is a safe country, and the people are very also very friendly. 

How Krobo powder glass beads are made

Here, I show you how Krobo powder glass beads are made by the local artisans. I borrowed few images rom Wikipaedia- so I credit them for the use of the two images below. Basically, the artisans use broken or powdered glass. The netire process is purely hand made and labour intensive. So, once the glass panes or bottles are crushed into fine or, course powder, the crafts men funnel them into clay moulds and then fired in a wood burning kiln. So, to get broken glass, they start by collecting old bottles, discarded windowpanes, broken glass, jars. Now, this process of rescuing discarded glass is sustainable. The glass is sorted into different colours, then, crushed into fine or coarse powder. Pounding or crushing the glass panes is done manually. Artisans do the punding inside wooden mortars with use of wooden pestles. Now, you can call this the labour of love, because, it is.

Powedered Glass Krob beads
Krbo beads from Ghana. Picture taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_glass_beads

Now, the crushed powder is melts when put inside high heat inside kilns and then left to cool. The crushed glass is poured into specially designed clay moulds. These moulds clay moulds are indent with holes of about 20millimeters. This are the sizes of individual Krobo beads. They use sticks or pokes to make this hole of equal size. After this, the various coloured glass powder is poured into each hole in turns to form those layers and distinctive patterned designs you see in each recycled glass bead.

Clay Moulds used for Glass Beads. Photo take from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_glass_beads

Each Krobo beads comes with about 2mm diameter hole  to help you string or bead your beaded bracelets or necklaces. To create these holes, the stem of a Cassava leave is placed through the centre of the powder. The idea is that the cassava stalk burns away easily into ash, with the high heat. Hence, this process will leave a hole where the cassava stalk was.

Following this process, the moulds which contain the powdered layers are placed inside hand made clay brick oven or kilns. At about 800-1200 degrees, glass powder begins to melt at an extremely high temperature. The type of clay that will not break under such intense heat are those made from collapsed old termite mounds. So, these wood-burning kilns will melt broken or powdered glass to form perfect beads. However, the Cassava stem burns out leaving the hole.

How Krobo Beads are Finished off and Ready for Beading

This is how Krobo beads are finished off and ready for beading. After the beads are left to cool, they are polished with water and sand by rubbing them thoroughly by hand. It is a kneading rubbing motion which requires skill to not damage the new formed glass beads. The intricate designs you see on some beads are hand painted. To make these artistic designs on the glass beads, powdered glass is mixed in water. From here, the bead needs to go back into the intense heat to is melt the glass pattern and fuse the design into the bead. More elaborate designs are formed after several return inside the kiln to fuss and imbed each layered pattern into the bead.

Just as in anything, additional options breed diverse designs and interest. When it comes to the Ghanaian traditional Krobo beads, there are four main styles. And, each uniquely different.

  1. The clear/translucent beads; These types of beads are made first sorted into different colours before they are crushed into coarse or granular glass chips. After this process, the chips are poured into moulds to melt in hot oven.   
  2. Powdered glass beads: As the name suggests these types of beads are made using finely ground glass powder. Ceramic dye is then added to the glass powder for colouring and then transferred into the moulds. The Coloured powder is layered inside the moulds to create those interesting multi-coloured designs. After this step, they are fired in the kiln at a low temperature for about10 minutes.
  3. Painted glass beads: Here, usual recycled glass beads are left to cool. After this, ceramic dye is added to plain glass powder to form a workable glaze or paste. By using a small, pointed  stick or needle, artisans can create unique designs onto the beads one at a time. The hand painted Krobo beads left to dry for about 15 minutes.
  4. Seed beads. Seed beads are much smaller beads. Great for making earrings or waist beads. Artisans make much smaller holes or depressions into the clay mould.

Now, when you look at my online Krobo beads bracelet collection, you will find all these different types of Krobo beads. Here, the differences in the look, feel, or colour of Krobo beads comes from bead making process itself. It takes years to master the craft of Krobo bead making. The Krobo bead industry gives means to livelihood for these local artisans. Mostly, men are involved in the making of Krobo beads in Krobo Odumase Ghana. This might be because of the intense physical labour required. Women on the other hand trade these beads around the manufacturing locations, which where all hand pick and choose my beads. Buying beads and other locally handmade materials is part of my holidays time in Ghana.

Conclusion

So, here is how recycled Glass Bead making process goes in Kroo land, before imported to Melbourne for handmade Jewellery. So next time you buy Krobo beads to use for DIY craft jewellery making or in the form of beaded bracelets or necklace, remember the beads were made by hand. Also, I pay a fair wage for these beads which is what all of us need to do to make this traditional craft sustainable. I look forward to your next hand made project using traditional Ghanaian Krobo beads made from recycled glass. Sustainable and environmentally friendly. The photo illustrates what you can expect, however, there may be some minor variations depending on availability. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

10% OFF

Join AkosCreative Tribe!
Experience this Creative Journey with Me
Sign up to my monthly Newsletter For more Giveaways!
JOIN NOW!
close-link