Beaded bracelets are popular accessories that have been around for centuries. They are still popular to this day and are mostly worn as accessories.
They come in a wide variety of designs, materials, and colors, so there is always something for everyone.
They have been made with beads, and there have been concerns of cultural appropriation since beads originated from Africa, and Native Americans popularized beaded bracelets.
This article answers the question of whether these accessories are cultural appropriation, plus more about their history and origin.
About beaded bracelets
Beaded bracelets are several beads that have been strung together using a string or band. They are thought to have originated centuries ago from Native Americans. The beads are made of various materials including glass, plastic, gemstones, and crystals.
The strings used to string the beads together can also be made using various materials, such as expensive ones like gold, platinum and silver, or inexpensive materials such as brass, nickel and copper.
They are mostly used as accessories and people wear them for various reasons. They can be worn to compliment your outfit, accessorize, as a signature daily item or replace a wristwatch.
Some hold sentimental value and meaning, especially if it was a gift from a loved one. Other people wear them to express their faith, as some rosaries that Catholics use are in beaded bracelet form.
Some people have said that they wear bracelets to give them positive energy and bring healing to their bodies. Other bracelets are worn as a form of patriotism as they are made in the respective person’s country flag colors.
They can also be worn to spread a message or awareness regarding a certain cause. The beads can be designed in a way that a certain word or name can be spelled out, and those who are supporters can purchase and wear the bracelets as a way of expressing their beliefs.
Beaded bracelets can be easily made at home using strings, beads, and a few simple tools. People usually make beaded bracelets as a hobby to express their creativity.
Some have even turned this hobby into a small business, whereby they showcase their products through online shops like Etsy or via their social media platforms. They then form a customer base, whereby people can order as they like and even make custom orders.
History of beaded bracelets
The origin of beaded bracelets can be traced back to ancient times in the Native American community. They made the beads from mined turquoise and used the shells to create bracelets. They also used materials such as wood, ivory, animal bones, and natural metals.
After colonization, the beaded jewelry-making business among Native Americans steeped into prosperity. They began to use more modern material in making their jewelry, such as glass and more advanced metalworking techniques.
Mass production of beads takes place in factories. For example, in the making of glass or plastic beads, they are pressed and mass-produced by being melted, the desired color is added and the molten glass or plastic is poured into molds of the required shape.
The beads are separated into different categories, based on a variety of criteria such as place of origin, manufacturing process, general shape, and component material.
In today’s world, beaded bracelet making has advanced into small businesses and even hobbies, mostly among women. The beaded bracelets of today have been made with plastic, crystal or glass, and can be found online, in jewelry shops, or in open-air markets.
One can purchase beads and strings from craft shops and create them on their own, then sell them online as a small business or via an open-air shop.
Are beaded bracelets cultural appropriation?
No, they are not. However, in case someone purchases and wears beaded bracelets, or wants to start a business making and selling them, they should be diligent in carrying out their research.
Cultural appropriation occurs when someone of another culture uses language or wears clothing jewelry or hairstyles that represent another culture in a dishonoring way. It is offensive to do this as the person is not subject to the oppressions and struggles that people that originate from that culture face.
In this case, if someone looks to create and sell beaded bracelets, they should research more on the Native American culture and history with beaded bracelets, since they originated from them.
They should be conscious of what some of the patterns they use in their design represent. They should also not try to pass off a copy of a Native American design as the authentic one. Also, they should not pass off a random design they made as an authentic Native American design.
When it comes to cultural appropriation, honesty is the best policy. Make authentic beaded bracelet designs and be honest about their origin, instead of passing them as your own. Also, be diligent in your research to understand what certain patterns, designs, and colors represent.
Beaded bracelets are a beautiful accessory that everyone can wear.
However, it is important to be knowledgeable of what certain designs and patterns mean to avoid offending others.
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