Krobo beads are produced in the region of Somanya-Krobo in Ghana, West
Africa. All of the Krobo beads used in Belle Bangles designs have been
purchased from a non-profit organisation that work to develop sustainable
employment opportunities in the region for disadvantaged youth, whose job
prospects are very limited by their lack of family support and/or limited levels
of education. The organisation adheres to strict fair trade principles.
The Krobo bead makers are best known for their beautiful powdered glass beads.
Made from mainly recycled glass bottles, the beads are still produced in open-sided,
thatch-roofed huts, using traditional, labour-intensive methods.
Using a large mortar and pestle, the bead maker first pounds the sheets and shards
of glass into a fine powder. After sifting the powder to remove any chunks, he (or,
less often, she) adds small amounts of ceramic powder or ‘mason stain’ to intensify
the base colour of the beads. The powder is then carefully poured into cylinder-
shaped holes that have been carved into homemade clay moulds. A stick from the
cassava plant is inserted into the centre to form a bead hole.
Meanwhile, the bead maker has been firing up the homemade clay oven. He feeds it
using brush and small logs which, if he lives in a town, must be obtained at great
expense from outlying areas and hauled home in a rented truck. Now, using a long-
handled spatula-like tool, he inserts the mould into the fiery oven.
As the beads fire, the cassava sticks burn out, leaving holes in the beads centres.
Once the beads have reached a putty consistency, the bead maker removes them
from the oven and uses a tool much like an ice pick to loosen them in their moulds.
After the beads have been cooled and washed, the bead maker begins the
painstaking process of painting his highly individualised designs on the beads. After
each colour is applied, the bead must be re-fired. The beads often have as many as
five or six different colours on them. The beads are then strung on cotton string, tied
off and sent to market to find their way into the world.
Every piece of jewellery made by Belle Bangles using Krobo beads is one of a
kind and you can be assured that by purchasing an item you are really helping
the bead makers earn a consistent living wage - Thank you.