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Bead Basket

Quorum Trading Company

Quorum Trading Company is a single member artisan site specializing in the design and assembly of authentic trade bead jewelry and accessories. All products are newly crafted by hand and comprised of various beads, bands and other ancient materials from West Africa during the 14th century along with European versions up thru the 19th century.


Objective Goal


In an effort to preserve the heritage and legacy of those affected by the African Trade Bead market, it is my intent to collect and create artistic forms that allow us to reflect on the past and acknowledge the ancient gift of trade implemented by the people of pre-colonial Africa. 


With time and continued support from family and friends, I am hopeful that more of us can learn to appreciate the origin of beads and their contribution to society as one of the first true forms of intercontinental currency.

Colonial Trade Routes

History of African Trade Beads 

Trade beads are beads that were used as a medium of barter within and amongst communities around the world. They are considered to be one of the earliest forms of trade between members of the human race. It has also been surmised that bead trading was one of the reasons why humans developed language as a means to help facilitate multicultural commerce.



Made to ease the passage of European explorers and then traders mainly across the African continent, the beads were made throughout Europe although the Venetians dominated production. Archaeologists documented in 2022 that beads manufactured in Europe continued to accompany exploration of Africa using Indigenous routes into the interior as recently as the late-nineteenth century.


It was reported in February 2022 that Venetian glass trade beads had been found at three prehistoric Eskimo sites in Alaska, including Punyik Point. Uninhabited today, and located a mile from the Continental Divide in the Brooks Range, the area was on ancient trade routes from the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean. From their creation in VeniceItaly, researchers believe the likely route these artifacts traveled was across Europe, then Eurasia and finally over the Bering Strait, making this discovery "the first documented instance of the presence of indubitable European materials in prehistoric sites in the western hemisphere as the result of overland transport across the Eurasian continent." After radiocarbon dating materials found near the beads, archaeologists estimated their arrival on the continent to sometime between 1440 and 1480, predating Christopher Columbus.


Aggry beads are a type of decorated glass bead from Ghana that have been used by West Africans as ornaments in necklacesbracelets and other jewelry for many centuries. Aggry beads are also called Koli, Cori, Kor, Segi, Accori, or Ekeur and are often used for medicinal purposes, as it is believed that they have magical powers. [1]


In addition to their aesthetic and mystical appeal, African trade beads were also used for the primary exchange of commerce. As a result, trade beads throughout the continent retained their intrinsic value amongst the indigenous people and helped to facilitate the first transactional means of payment throughout and across Africa. 


For centuries prior to European descent, Africans regularly used beads as a form of currency to obtain wealth and social status which could be easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewellery worn. 


Depending on different sources, early african trade beads and labelled as such may be made from glass, amber, coral, or stones such as agate and/or amoznite from Mali and Mauritania. It is also possible that some of the original beads came from the Phoenicians centuries before, who used it as a means of trading along the coasts of Europa, Asia and Africa.


As intercontinental trade and commerce began to expand African trade beads became more integrated thru the commerce exchange of European trade merchants. As a result, European merchants began to collect beads from the West Coast of Africa as early as the fifteenth century and began to replicate trade beads in glass forms throughout Italy and other parts of Europe.


Despite the many forms and designs of traditional trade beads, the Millefiori (thousand flower) beads from Venice, Italy were one of the most commonly traded beads among European traders and are commonly referred to today as "African trade beads” [2] 


As the demand for authentic trade beads proliferated, the success of this form of currency continued to impose further challenges on the indigenous people due to the extensive work required to produce and distribute them across Africa and into other regions of the world. Unfortunately, the ease of production of these beads using methods employed by European artisans enabled them to devalue the limited supply of authentic trade beads in West Africa. As a result, the consolidation of European production and existing inventories ultimately led to the further exploitation of Africas monetary system, the continents abundant resources and the people themselves.


[1] Wikipedia reference 

[2] Wikipedia reference 

Owner / Designer


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