Nigerian Bracelets and Bangles

Hand-made beads from different Nigerian and African cultures

By The Centenary Project

The Centenary Project


Nigeria is a federal republic in West Africa, bordering Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger in the north. It consists of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where Abuja (the capital) is located.

Fishing line neck accessoryThe Centenary Project

African Beads

They are made from a diverse array of materials. Some of the oldest beads were made from natural materials such as stones, clay, plant materials such as palm nuts and bamboo stems and animal materials such as ostrich eggshells. The colours and texture of these materials are retained and combined in different ways as necklaces and bracelets.

A traditional necklace

Archeologists have found beaded necklaces and beads buried with chiefs and kings in ancient African graves. Wearing and most important owning and old African jewelry or bead is believed to provide wisdom, hope, luck and well-being to its owner.

Neckpiece beads from Bida and KanoThe Centenary Project


Beads and handmade jewellery have played an important role in Africans life and in the court life of African kingdoms, being valued sometimes as currency and sometimes as an artistic creation.

Clay, shells...

The materials used to make those African products have varied over time, and include stone, clay, paper, metal, wood, shells and glass.

Charmed beads 2The Centenary Project

Nok Culture

Bead-making is an ancient craft universally practised among the various ethnic groups of Nigeria dating to antiquity. Nok culture provides evidence of the earliest civilization in Nigeria with some of its terra-cotta figures depicting human beings, wearing what are presumably strings of stone beads around the necks, wrists and ankles.

Tribal Jewelry

Tribal African jewelry is dependant upon three things: what is available locally, what has been traded and bartered for over the centuries and what the customs and traditions are in the different cultures.

The Lost Wax

For example, the lost wax method of bronze casting in Nigeria and Benin started by the Yoruba in the 13th century has produced very intricate modelling of bronze pieces.

Neckpiece are made out of wood, plastic and a seed 3The Centenary Project

More Beading

These beaded objects were created in varying shapes, color schemes and also came in a variety of beaded designs.
Some of the most spectacular beaded objects in Africa came from the crowns of the Yoruba kings of Nigeria.

Neckpiece are made out of wood, plastic and a seedThe Centenary Project

Emblems of the gods

According to the ancient traditions of the Yoruba people, strands of beads were regarded as emblems of the gods. As such, when a ruler wears a beaded crown with a veil attached, this is the most effective sign of their kingship.

Pod-like beads 2The Centenary Project

Pod-like beadsThe Centenary Project

Hausa Beads

The Hausa people in Northern Nigeria and parts of West Africa are particularly known for dominating the bead trade where they travel extensively to locate beads in villages, modify them, and sell them to local and foreign merchants.

Bangles made with carved beads 2The Centenary Project

Bangles made with carved beadsThe Centenary Project

A Lot of Handiwork

Local bead making is often by hand and is therefore labor-intensive process. This leads to variability in the appearance of individual beads even within a single strand.

Mythical Significance

Today, beads have played an enormous role in the culture, fashion, economy, and artistic expression of the African people. African tribal beads and glass beads also hold a special mythical significance as well.

Sponge neckpieceThe Centenary Project

Sponge neckpiece 2The Centenary Project

Red Coral Beads

The significance of red coral beads by the Oba, Chiefs and peoples of the Benin Kingdom cannot be overemphasized. The wearing of beads by the Oba and Chiefs in the Benin Empire was not only royal and cultural but was also religious.

Headgear beads (top view)The Centenary Project


Precious coral or red coral is the common name given to Corallium rubrum and several related species of marine coral. The distinctive attribute of precious corals is their durable and intensely colored red or pink skeleton, which is used for making jewelry.

Headgear beads (side view)The Centenary Project

The Bini Culture

Coral beads as a necklace and hair accessory in her traditional wedding. The picture shows how they can be used to adorn head gears worn by Nigeria women of the Bini culture as a way to enhance their beauty.

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo
Photographs: Christopher Udoh
Text: Patrick Enaholo (using various sources)

© The Centenary Project

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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