Back to your roots: Locally made African jewelry

Jewelry is a girl’s best friend, some say. It is even better when it is made artistically and goes beyond the norm. The art and beauty of locally made jewelry is that they are made from easily available materials that could have otherwise been considered useless.  

Jewelry is a girl’s best friend, some say. It is even better when it is made artistically and goes beyond the norm. The art and beauty of locally made jewelry is that they are made from easily available materials that could have otherwise been considered useless.  

These jewelry pieces are made from beads, pieces of polished wood, bones, leather, pebbles, shells and semi-precious stones. Beadwork is the most common of all the materials used in Rwanda as the beads can be blended in various ways to achieve the desired results. 

 

Animal skins cut into narrow thongs are used for threading beads and other materials then knotted into necklaces or armbands. Bracelets made from leather with colourful beads sewn on them are easy to find too. For those who like to wear rings, bracelets or necklaces but can’t because metal jewelry affect their skin, African jewelry is an option as it has no effect on one’s skin.

 

Though some of it might react to the wearer’s skin, caution should be observed when purchasing locally made earrings as it may be made of ordinary wires and may cause irritation to the skin.   These jewelry pieces guarantee uniqueness since they mostly make one of each. The sizes also vary and one can also find tailor made pieces.

 

“African jewelry displays both the maker’s and the wearer’s creativity. Most of them are one of a kind. They are all handmade which guarantees uniqueness and are easy to match with an outfit,” Elia Gasana, a designer of African jewelry and kitenge wear, said.  African jewelry is relatively easier to maintain as it does not require regular polishing or cleaning.   

Though several of them can be worn at the same time, it is easy to get carried away and go overboard. “When wearing artistic jewelry, ladies should remember that too much of it can end up looking a little bit clumsy,” Gasana said.

This type of jewelry does not go well with most formal wear as it is mostly too colourful or rugged. “It is advisable to wear the pieces with casual wear since most of them are colourful,” Gasana advised. 

Gasana added that if one chooses to don African jewelry, it would be safe for the wearer to avoid trying to blend it with metal jewelry.  Amongst the available jewelry pieces are necklaces, bracelets, anklets and rings. 

In Kigali, most of the locally made earrings, bracelets and necklaces go for Rwf 1000 to Rwf 4000.  

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