Ghana's recycled glass beads are well-known around the world and their making  dates back many centuries. 

Broadly, there are three types of glass bead (although, each time I get a new order in I notice something new - exciting!) derived mainly from how they get their colours.

  1. Translucent Glass Beads:

They take their colour from the bottle or other glass material used. Sometimes though, when the desired colours aren't available in the usual way, the craftsmen will grind down imported glass beads to achieve what they really want.

frosty white glass beads come from clear glass

Frosty white translucent beads will have come from clear bottles which abound

packet translucent beads whose colour is derived from imported glass beads

Harder to obtain colours come from imported seed beads

pink packet beads made from imported seed beads

In the glass bead-making industry the teal blue and pink beads above are known as "packet beads", based the kind of packaging the raw material comes in.

2.  Powder Glass Beads:

Powder glass beads are opaque and coloured by the addtion of ceramic colourants to ground glass powder before being fired in moulds. They derive their name from the fact that the used glass items are ground into a powder before being used.

This type of bead can be one plain colour or multiple colours.

Plain-Coloured Powder Glass Beads

opaque powder glass beads in plain single colour is achieved by adding colourant to glass powder

Multiple Colour Powder Glass Beads

opaque powder glass beads derive their colour from ceramic colourants

The design of powdered glass beads is incorporated prior to firing by adding different colour glass powder in a vertical mould.  It can be simple or complex patterns.

bi-cone powder glass beads

More complex powder glass patterns

3. Painted Glass Beads

opaque painted glass beads

Painted glass bead are made in the same way as the powder ones, but in addition, are hand-painted after they have cooled and then re-fired to fix the colour.

hand-painted king beads

You will find they have a textured surface because of the designs on them.

Below are beads ready to be hand-painted:

powder glass beads ready to be hand-painted

Variations of  the three beads types are made and I will explore those in my next article.

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