The History of African Heritage Jewelry

African Heritage House

Explore the stunning designs of the African Heritage jewellery created and designed by Alan Donovan.

African Heritage Jewelry at African Heritage House
This is a collection of jewelry designed by Alan Donovan. They are made of materials found all over Africa. Also in this collection is the elaborate beadwork from the Akamba of Eastern Kenya.

African Heritage Jewellery

Iman, the most famous model to come out of Africa, modelling African Heritage jewelry.

Photo by Peter Beard.

Alan Donovan and Banana Republic

Alan Donovan also collaborated with Banana Republic selling jewelry and accessories of his design. This is a Banana Republic catalogue showcasing Alan Donovan's design inspired by the Turkana.

Alan Donovan has also designed and created jewelry under the African Heritage Jewelry label. The "All of Africa" necklaces shown here are so called as they are made of semiprecious stones and components from all over the continent. 

Model wearing an African Heritage collar of Egyptian Faience beads, based on a queen's collar from Alexandria, created for "World on a String" exhibition. Photo by Diane Freiburg.

Coconut shell and camel bone necklace

This necklace is made of camel bone pendants from Sudan, African amber beads from Mali and coconut shell from Nigeria.

Camel bone pendant

Made of carved bone pendants by the Dinka of Southern Sudan, and African amber, coconut shell from Nigeria and leather.

African Heritage necklace

Made of Ethiopian brass cross, cast brass elements from Baoule, Ivory Coast, and Kirdi, Cameroon with African amber.

Bat Necklace
An early African Heritage jewelry design created from a fetish priestess’ armband in the form of a bat with tiny bells from Benin, West Africa, with “false coral” beads. Photo by Joel Lipton

Coconut shell necklace with a camel bone pendant

Made from Dinka camel bone pendant, studded with cowrie shells and brass beads, on neck-ring with coconut shell beads, Nigeria.

Amber necklace

Made of African amber, cast brass beads made by lost wax technique from Cameroon and Ivory Coast,and ostrich egg shell from Kenya.

African Heritage necklace

Made from Fulani leather and metal charms, with old glass trade beads, amber and cowrie shells.

False coral beads necklace with a Surutia pendant

Made of “false coral” glass beads from Nigeria, ostrich egg shell from Turkana, Kenya; Nigerian glass beads, clay beads from the Sahara Desert, cast brass beads, tiny brass beads from the Giriama of Kenya, Czech glass trade beads; false python glass beads from Japan, and the Surutia as a pendant from Maasai married women.

Copper and carnelion necklace

The first African Heritage necklace made by Alan Donovan in 1971; made of Turkana copper earrings, carnelion agates, Giriama brass beads and Akamba copper chains.

Ethiopian silver necklace

An old Ethiopian wedding necklace made of silver or silver alloy, probably from the town of Harar.

African Heritage Necklace

Made of old glass beads from Idar-Oberstein, Germany to resemble agates; African amber, Nigerian glass beads, clay beads from the Sahara, Czech glass beads, agates and coconut shells.

African Heritage Necklace

This necklace is made of crocodile teeth from Lake Turkana, with Giriama wedding beads. This was among the first designs by Alan Donovan in 1971.

African Heritage brass and coconut shell necklace

Made of round cast brass discs from Mali, coconut shell from Nigeria and volcanic clay beads from Lake Chad.

African Heritage Earrings
These earrings have been designed and created by Alan Donovan of African Heritage House. These particular ones are made from camel bone overlaid with incised aluminium. 

Alumimium necklace and earrings set

Aluminium necklace and earrings set based on the Turkana “Aparaparat” earrings with African amber.

Brass necklace and earrings set

Necklace and earring set. Brass earrings based on the Turkana “Aparaparat” earrings with African amber.

Brass necklace and earrings set

Necklace and earring set based on a Swahili design: simulated coral beads, Baoule brass beads from Ivory Coast, coconut shell, Nigeria, and corresponding amber earrings.

Porcupine quill earrings

Made from Porcupine quills and hand-hammered aluminum beads, made from old cooking pots by the Gabbra of Kenya.

African Heritage soapstone earrings

Made from the famous Kisii soapstone from Kenya, glass beads, coconut shell from Nigeria; these earrings have been dyed and incised in a ostrich pattern.

Brass earrings

They are based on Turkana designs and are made of Venetian glass beads and Czech and Venetian glass trade beads.

Alan Donovan's collection of Akamba Beadwork
The Akamba from Kenya are noted for their elaborate beadwork. White, known as the colour of fertility, is the background for almost all Akamba beadwork. The most common beadwork patterns are a variation of triangles, diamonds, arrows, double triangles and double arrows as the Akamba were the guides and hunters of East Africa.

This is the African Heritage Band in Alan Donovan's collection of Akamba beadwork

Akamba beaded collar

This is a beaded collar worn by women.

Akamba beaded collor

This is a simple collor worn by women.

Akamba beaded collar

This is a simple collar worn by women.

Akamba beaded loin-cloth with hand-made chains

Akamba women wear beaded costumes during celebrations.

Credits: Story

Curated by:
Magunga Williams; writer and blogger []
Martin K. Maitha; writer []

Photography by:
Kabutha Kago []
Alan Donovan []
David Beatty []

Associated Manager:
Fred Kithinzi of Belva Digital []

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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