Guide to buying jewellery in Africa

african beads©oneVillage Initiative/Flickr

Africa is a fabulous destination under many aspects, but few people at the moment think of it as a shopping destination – and that’s a pity, cause Africa offers truly remarkable crafting, especially when it comes to jewellery. Of course, your choice of an African destination when it comes to a guide to buying jewellery in Africa depends very much on your understanding of the world jewellery. If you mean precious metals and gems, then you probably know already that Africa is among the biggest diamond exporters. But Africa is also a great place to buy original and artsy bead work, as well as other hand made accessories:

Tuareg Jewelry

Tuareg jewellery is famous for the intricate designs, its creativity and originality. The Tuaregs living in the desert are famous for their blacksmith skills – so most of their jewellery is made using metal and fire alone. The materials can vary: while silver is the most frequent metal, it is not unusual for Tuaregs to use and even recycle other metals, like, for example, copper.

Ethiopian Jewelry

beadwork ©bessiejane/Flickr

Another country famous for is crafts is Ethiopia. The hand-made necklaces, bracelets and beads made in Ethiopia can be extremely intricate: huge earrings, colourful beads made of several parts and chains and crosses with sophisticated motifs are typical creations. The materials can vary from simple stones and leather to silver, semi-precious stones and even gold.

African bead work

Beads are found in a variety of shapes and colors in many parts of Africa. Beads can be made of literally anything: stone, wood, bone, colored glass, plastic, recycled materials etc. More importantly, beads can play different roles in various African societies: while for many families bead work is now a form of subsistence, they can also be used in rituals, as charms or even as currency.  Some countries famous for their beadwork are Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Mali, Morocco and Ghana.


arfican belt©ellenm1/Flickr

The history of diamond exploitation in Africa is not a happy one, and many times its gems have been called blood diamonds. However, diamonds continue to represent a major industry along the West African coast, especially in Sierra Leone, Namibia and Angola. South Africa and Botswana also have diamond mines. Some of the best places to buy diamond jewellery are the South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, which have numerous stores and workshops specialized in diamond

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