Magnificent and very hard to find, these old Kiffa beads are all imperfect with some repaints. These beads were made in Kiffa, Mauritania, Africa. They were used as hair adornments by the Kiffa women. The art of making Kiffa beads is gone. Approximately dating from the early 1900s through to the 1940s, these beads were individually made by hand using a needle and human spit. The core is sometimes made from dark gray powdered glass and sometimes non-glass materials. Using a needle and spit, tiny portions of colored glass were laboriously applied to the bead core repeatedly until the beads were totally covered with an outer layer of powdered glass in monochrome or with dots or stripes. The semi-finished beads were then cooked over an outdoor open fire until the powdered glass fused. These Kiffa beads are strung with RARE, cobalt blue, Vaseline beads using a laborious and intricate macrame technique.
Vaseline beads were made in Europe and usually molded. The term "Vaseline glass" is loosely applied to a process where uranium is added, usually as an oxide, to glass producing a wide variety of colors. Although these are not uranium Vaseline glass, their shape is the same and they are commonly called "Vaseline beads" because during this process the milky white material resembled Vaseline ointment. Vaseline glass beads are usually a small bicone shape with eight facets on either end. Most of these were produced in Europe in the mid to late 19th century. During this period the beads were hand faceted and had conical perforations. There was a revival period in the mid 20th century and these beads are from this period.
These beads have survived a tremendous legacy and have been cherished by their previous owners. To best care for this necklace, it is recommended that you store it flat and separate from other jewelry to reduce the chance of damage to your beads. We hope you enjoy and treasure your necklace as much as its previous owners have!
Additional Recommended Reading:
Dubin's The History of Beads
Picard's Volume V, Russian Blues, Faceted and Fancy Beads from the West African Trade
Note: All prices in US Dollars
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