Africa It is a continent very rich in culture, full of colors, customs and above all history.who has made great contributions to humanity. Its lands are full of archaeological finds that contain the essence of the life of many cultures and civilizations, and that today are still valid in modern life through artistic manifestations that bring to the whole world the feeling of the indigenous peoples who they once populated this part of the globe.

These artistic manifestations can be found in jewelry, of which there are pieces dating back thousands of years. In fact, it is known that the oldest jewels found on this continent are two pieces of ocher and beads made with engraved snail shells approximately 75,000 years old, discovered in Blombos Cave in South Africaas well as the 40,000-year-old ostrich shell beads discovered in Kenya.

Other findings have been necklaces and bracelets made of raw stone, teeth and bones, with a very particular symbology.

If we look for a basic characteristic of African jewelry, it would undoubtedly be the strong symbolism they contain and that is manifested through the various meanings of distinctive elements such as bones, teeth, feathers, skulls of small animals, which are combined with minerals and metals, in order to create amulets or simply ornaments that the natives wore on their bodies and that today many tribes that inhabit this continent still carry with pride, and that despite the great advances and changes of the modern world, they preserve their customs, tastes, preferences and lifestyles, just as they did thousands of years ago. .

This is how Africans have been able to create and maintain a unique style full of color and shapes, turning their jewelry into representative elements of their culture and customs for thousands of years, revealing the importance of jewelry and ornament as a religious, cultural symbol. and social, so they are generally used during religious ceremonies, dance performances, marriage rituals, or simply to decorate the body and attract the attention of the opposite sex in order to establish a relationshipso it can be said that African jewelry finds its essence in symbolism and the key to its impact on culture lies in its great variety.

Now, there are key pieces or garments of African jewelry, such as the lip plate, which can measure up to 20 centimeters and is intended to reinforce the mouth. This is used especially in the tribes of Ethiopia, which wear it to symbolize wealth, using materials such as firewood, terracotta or ivory for its elaboration generally. In addition, the number of layers that it possesses determines if a family is more or less rich.

If we refer to the use of precious stones in African jewelry, we must mention blue stones, as well as quartz and carnelian. Special mention deserves the yellow amber, which they used with devotion because they related it to the sunso it symbolizes light and helped them protect the people and keep the shadows away.

Other stones used in African jewelry are: coral, which is called the «water tree», symbolizing the generation of life and protection; ambergris, to which an aphrodisiac power is attributed, and small pearls, which are used set in bracelets, necklaces and bracelets, or to decorate in the form of headbands.

Without a doubt, pearls have been a basic element in the jewelry of many cultures over time, and for Africans they came to have a main attraction within the objects they used to stand out, being used by both men and womenand were directly related to them as a symbol of seduction and attraction.

In addition, African artisans frequently resorted to other materials from the time of the Egypt of the pharaohs to create their jewelry, such as the cowrie, which is a small shell that was related to the female sex and was sometimes used to complement the jewels. This shell was also used as currency and exchange merchandise.its use spread throughout the continent, having found specimens in archaeological sites in the Sahara and in Mali.

But, the attractiveness of African jewelry could not leave aside the most valued metal, goldthis was used mainly for the elaboration of ornaments and not as coins, highlighting the art of Senegalese goldsmiths who became great experts in the manipulation of this metal, and gave African jewelry a place of honor, which later it increased its prestige by combining African and European influences, which led to the creation of unique pieces, which were later replicated in European markets for centuries.

Given the importance and attractiveness that gold jewelry was reaching, they began to show off especially during the performance of prestigious rites and festivals within the social context of different times. The gold jewelry that was generally used were necklaces, earrings, belts, rings for feet and hands, hair ornaments and even the so-called «disc of the soul» was worn on the chest, which was a kind of large brooch that they wore. priests and nobles in order to purify the chief’s soul.

Another of the materials used since ancient times in African jewelry is bronze, especially in the Niger area, where younger women wore garments made with this material and that had a great weight that made it difficult for them to move, because they wore them on their ankles and arms, which was considered attractive. These garments bore Islamic engravings, and included bronze bells on necklaces and bracelets, as symbols of wealth, to the point that in some cases they became part of the bride’s dowry.

Bronze was also used to make some large bracelets., which were used as means of divinity in the sanctuaries, which allowed them to communicate with the spirits. To do this, they generally used images of animals such as the buffalo, which were animals respected for their strength and cunning, representing the social importance of those who wore them on a necklace.

For its part, silver was highly valued because it represented beauty, purity and honesty, which is why it was widely used by artisans in rural areas and nomadic tribes, such as the Berbers and Turks, whose chiefs and guests of high hierarchical level wore elongated silver rings as tobacco holders, as well as rings that represented some combatant on horseback, which were used by warriors during religious and ceremonial rites.

Thus, over time African jewelry has evolved thanks to the introduction of new techniques, adding elements that enhance the beauty of the pieces. One of the contributions to African jewelry was brought by the Hebrews, who arrived in Africa during the Inquisition periodincluding explosive colors and the technique of Chinese origin known as “cloisonnee”which is a kind of alveolate enamel, used for the decoration of metallic objects, with glass inlays, precious stones, among other materials.

On the other hand, the Hebrews introduced the «niellatura» technique, which was used to make silver engravings, which gave the decorative elements more real and stylized forms, taking symbols from nature, such as the jackals that according to tradition They served to ward off evil spirits, the snake that was considered the defender of life, the salamander that protected them from fires, or fruits such as the pomegranate that symbolized fertility, or the almond that represented immortality.

This is how African jewelry currently bets on the design and creation of jewelry that maintains the ancient traditions, customs and culture of this continent, maintaining the use of natural materials and striking colors, which find faithful defenders in designers with a new vision, as the representatives of the brand Jewellahry highlighting the basic elements of contemporary african jewelry.

It should be noted that Susan Ellah who began selling her pieces locally until she became the designer behind the brand Jewellahryhas been achieving international recognition; when projecting her work at the Miss Universe 2010 pageantwhen the representative of Tanzania wore earrings designed by her especially for the occasion.

We could then say, without fear of being wrong, that African jewelry is present throughout the world, with its designs full of color and magic, with attractive shapes that are linked in a combination of colors and techniques that have achieved stylization and good taste, without leaving aside its idiosyncrasy and variety, maintaining the traditional elements inherited from previous generations and completely different from those that can be found anywhere else, in order to offer the world an art that is inspired by its roots, and achieves adapt modernity in their designs.

This has allowed the rise of the African jewelery industry, which has achieved a great projection worldwide in important events, an example of this is the jewelery contest recently sponsored by Anglo Gold Ashanti, one of the mining and trading companies of world’s most important gold jewelers, who decided to organize this event to produce a collection of gold jewelery that reflected the spirit of Africa, in which jewellers’ organizations, renowned designers and specialists in high-quality African jewelery participated, using tribal ornaments as symbols of beauty and distinction.