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Ancient Glass Deep Blue Green Teal Mixed Medium Sized Nila Beads from Mali - Rita Okrent Collection (AT0645)

3 items in stock

Gorgeous strands of excavated green blue and teal medium glass nila beads strands with mixed wear, from Mali.

Circa early Islamic period - approximately 900-1600 A.D.

Just 3 of these special strands in stock.

24 inches of beads per strand. Beads are graduated and range from 6-12mm.

These larger cousins of Nila beads are also referred to as Dardig beads. “Medium” is a relative term comparing these to smaller glass nila beads from our shops.

Strands sold individually. Strands photographed are available. Each strand differs a little, but all are similarly nice and close to the same length.

Nila / dardig beads are the Islamic-era glass beads than can be found in colors ranging from blue, green, red, black, white to yellow that are widespread in West Africa. They are sometimes also referred to as Indo-Pacific or Trade Winds beads, in reference to the ocean streams and winds that, for centuries, were used by the Arab merchant ships bringing them from India to Africa. They often have oxidization patina from burial and age. Large quantities have been found along the river banks of the Niger river in Mali and buried in large quantities in clay pots, used as a form of currency. They are also found in the ground in parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia. The name "Nila" comes from the Sanskrit term for indigo.

The colors of the beads in these strands come out when treated very gently with a tiny bit of olive oil (rub a little on your hands and then handle the beads). These beads also could be cleaned with water to bring out more color, as in the photos showing darker beads - some of the white color is patina due to age and burial. Expect some natural variation between strands from the color pictured and between strands. These beads can also be left as is.

As research and technology evolves, there is a greater ability to verify glass bead making by local manufacture in West Africa.
Some useful reference articles:

African Item 0645

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