What happens to the glass bottle after you’ve enjoyed your favorite beverage? If you’re like many people, you rinse the empty bottle, place it in a recycling can, and forget about it.
The Krobo people of Ghana have made an art of crafting old glass bottles into beads used for earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and more. A collection of exquisite hand-painted glass bead jewelry created by the Global Mamas Krobo Bead Cooperative is available at Global Gifts stores. Shown here is the six-strand rainbow bead bracelet and Sankofa rainbow earring set.
It is unclear when the practice of glass bead-making began, but the Krobo people who live throughout the eastern region of Ghana have mastered the art, having learned from past generations. Glass beads are used ceremonially in Krobo culture to honor significant life events including: birth, marriage, death, and coming of age. The bright colors and designs of the beads are also prominently displayed in festivals and parades.
Let’s follow along to see the transformation of glass bottles into beaded jewelry…
Used glass bottles are washed and sorted by color. They are then broken up into small fragments or crushed with mortar and pestle and poured through a sieve to obtain a fine powder that is dyed different colors.
Molds of various shapes and sizes are filled with glass fragments or dyed glass powder. The molds themselves are handmade from clay and then baked dry in the sun. For some varieties of glass beads, the powder or fragments are arranged in the molds to obtain a desired design and color combination. The molds for both translucent and dyed beads are fired in dome-shaped kilns to fuse the glass beads.
While still hot, the beads are carefully removed from the molds and then shaped with metal spindles and sanded. Once cool, clear beads are glazed and hand painted and then finished with a polish.
The Global Mamas Krobo Bead Cooperative opened in 2006 and is based in the Odumase Krobo area of Ghana. Over 30 beadmakers plus 20 more artisans work from their homes or in the Global Mamas offices to create the vibrant jewelry you can find at Global Gifts' stores.
Because the women who craft Global Mamas recycled glass bead jewelry are fairly paid, have safe working conditions, and are treated with dignity and respect, they are able to build a better life for themselves and their families. What’s better than bracelets and earrings that do good AND look great too!