Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paper Bead Jewelry

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the beautiful paper bead necklaces from Uganda and other African countries. Many craftsman groups in Africa make paper beads, fashioning them into wearable works of art and selling them in their local markets.

Nonprofit organizations, with the goal of providing sustainable incomes to impoverished African craftsmen, sell paper bead jewelry and other handmade products via their own online stores and in boutiques. The popularity of paper bead items continues to grow as consumers discover the endless array of colors and styles available. But more importantly, people feel good about purchasing a handmade item from someone who needs to feed his or her family. They’re getting a unique, quality piece. And they’re making a difference.

Paper beads start with long, narrow strips of colored paper. Old calendars or pages from magazines are often used. Cutting the strips to different lengths or shapes determines the shape of the bead. If the strip is wider at one end, for example, it will form a bead that is thicker in the center and narrower at each end. The strip is then wrapped around a thin object, such as a pin or toothpick, then held in place with a bit of glue. Each bead is then treated with varnish to make it waterproof and keep it from breaking apart. When dry, the beads can be strung together to make bracelets, necklaces, earrings, or even room dividers or curtains.

The photo below shows my own collection of paper bead jewelry. Each item was created by craftsmen in Uganda and made available through the nonprofit organization, Market Colors. All proceeds from their product sales are reinvested in Africa. For more information, please visit


  1. I can remember making paper bead jewellery as a child, but it was nothing like this. Just so beautiful.

  2. Lovely, and such a worthy cause! Interesting article!