Many people travel around Africa, admire the jewelry, and buy some pieces as souvenirs or to adorn themselves with. However, jewelry in many cultures across Africa has a significant meaning or purpose. In many cases, people didn't traditionally wear jewelry "just" to look more attractive. So, what could the African jewelry you wear say about you?
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Ok, moving on. Depending on the tribe, jewelry could indicate the social status, tribal association, age, marital status, or wealth of the person wearing it. Special jewelry is also used in certain rituals and ceremonies, and it could also be used to signify a person's achievements, like how many battles they've won or how many children they have.
For example, in the Zulu tribe of South Africa, a triangle pointing down represents an unmarried woman, and a triangle pointing up represents an unmarried man. In the Maasai tribe of Kenya, young Maasai warriors wear an armband made of leather and metal wire coils, which shows that they have fought and killed another man.
In the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, beads are a symbol of royalty. Only chiefs can wear certain designs. The coral beads were also thought to have special powers and could protect the wearer from evil curses.
The Ashante people of Ghana have beads (sometimes called talking beads) that can tell you which clan the wearer belongs to. The wealth of a woman's husband or family could also be determined by the number, and weight of the strands worn.
The color of the beads worn can also have different meanings. The meanings may vary depending on the tribe and the context in which they are worn. Below are some examples of what different colors of jewelry beads might mean.
Red – Bravery, strength, love, anger, and heartache.
Blue – The sky, water, faith, and hope.
Green – Vegetation, plants, contentment, jealousy.
Orange – Friendship, generosity, and hospitality.
Yellow – Growth, sun, and fertility.
White – Purity, health, love, and milk.
Black – Unity, harmony, solidarity, struggles, sadness, loneliness, and marriage.
While you are here, check out our charming jewelry-making kit for kids.