There is a big market for vintage trade beads, and Keta Awuzi Beads are in this category. These are old, sand-cast glass beads; Africans have made beads like this for over a thousand years. This particular type was reportedly made from the blue glass of cold-cream jars until the 1940's. They were made by the Yoruba and originated in Nigeria or Togo. The technique involves grinding the glass into a fine powder, then casting in clay molds to create various patterns and models. Then everything is heated to meld it permanently into shape.
The fascinating thing about trade beads is that every tribe and region has its own specific technique and preferred pattern. Here are three examples shown here, the first being the Keta Awuzi Beads, followed by Krobo and Kifa Beads. The older beads are rarer and are increasingly sought after by collectors.
You can find trade beads at special markets and through experts and collectors. In my area, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Glorianna's Beads features a great selection, and they tell me their rare beads are selling like hotcakes! Some go for enormous sums of money, so purchase is not for te faint of heart. It is - of course -possible to start small and collect just a few precious pieces, or you can explore the modern world of African bead-making, a fascinating study in its own right. African women in some communities are making and selling beads as a means of overcoming poverty -- see my earlier blog on 'Saving Lives, One Bead at a Time'. In the meantime, I have two examples of modern African ceramic beads for sale on my Etsy site; explore and enjoy! http://tinyurl.com/atcs2p3