Vintage

Vintage

These antique Czech glass beads were traded into Africa and are considered African Trade Beads. They became popular among the Fulani people of Mali who have traditionally presented these strands to young women on the eve of their wedding, hence the name most recognize them by now.

There is a large variety of glass trade beads that were made in Bohemia, which is now known as the Czech Republic.  They were made in the 1800's and 1900's.  The first of these glass trade beads to be manufactured mechanically using a press were the Mali wedding beads.  You can distinguish these Mali wedding beads by the seams on the sides of the beads where the the side of the press came together.  They can still be authentic Mali wedding beads if they don't have a seam as many artisans sands the seams down to a smooth surface.  What you will notice is the consistency in shape, which tend to be a lot of light bulbs, triangles, hourglass and pineapple beads.  The most valued of the bead shapes were those that resemble a woman's body.  The Mali people associated those beads with fertility.

The older beads are typically a solid color.  As innovations with machinery advanced options, the Bohemian or Czech glass bead makers starting combining colors to create patterns such as stripes and dots.  Now, they are made in every color with all kinds of finishes.