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Two distant continents share one love to a tiny bead! Ukraine and Africa necklace traditions.

Posted on July 15 2016

Africa and Ukraine.  Such different countries comparison seems to look like madness. However, at the time when the world is carried away by ethnic trends famous designers embody them into exclusive accessories, while the others do not even know about the 100 year tradition of wearing them.

Valentino SS16 – Paris Fashion Week




This has become the reason for such crazy research. We have decided to compare such distant and different continent beaded jewelry wearing tradition as they appeared in African and Ukrainian cultures at one time in the XIX century.




"Treti Pivni" photo project


Territory spreading

In Ukraine the same as in Africa beaded necklaces were not common for every region. Speaking about Africa the most exclusive and unique beaded jewelry style can be found in Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu, Zulu and Swazi tribes.  



While in Ukraine, beaded necklaces became an important part of the Western region traditional clothes accessory, Eastern Polesia and Dnieper Land.

Kryza beaded necklace


It’s difficult to say how it was in Africa. However, in Ukraine beads were strung without needle. Craftsmen used only a thread with wax covered end. And the beads were significantly smaller than modern ones.


 Beaded necklace jewelry served not only as accessory but it determined the social status of the owner.

Ukrainians considered, the more beaded necklaces jewelry you had got the wealthier your family was. Some families could even gave a pair of oxen or land for a desirable necklace. It was also an important part of the marriage portion. In Kenya, Samburu tribe people determine whether it is a teenager or a warrior, a priest, a virgin or already married person just having a glance at the beaded necklace.





If you haven’t got a beaded necklace than stay at home!

Both Ukrainian and African women considered necklace to be their talisman which could protect them from the evil and failure. Going out they usually put several chains of beaded necklace on.



Amazing multilayer necklace wearing tradition.

There is a wonderful exotic variant of such necklace in Ukraine too. It is called “cryza”. Round beaded collar which coveres shoulders and breast line. Lemky and Boiky (Western Ukrainian ethnic groups) wore several beaded necklaces. Sometimes they could reach a waist line. It’s not a surprise that African men have got old necklace wearing tradition preserved till today. What about Ukrainian ones?
Only in the Western part of Ukraine men wore beaded necklace-tie called “gerdan”. Triangular like shape at the end as a masculine symbol of power. Gerdan was often decorated with a mirror to escape the misfortune. Thus Ukrainian women to feel more confident preferred them too.
Both African and Ukrainian people are in close interaction with the nature.  That is why their observations and emotions are amazingly reflected in the beaded accessories.
The scorching sun of the African continent is reflected in scorched yellow and orange necklace beads. The beauty and colors of savanna is embodied into incredible combination of colors, from blue-heaven to intense green. Pattern variety. We can see the beads horizontal row placement. As Africa is mostly flat land. Thus zigzags and triangles, diamonds are common too.
In Ukraine, traditional beaded jewelry design is presented in geometric diamond with simple or complicated lines, triangulars, zigzags, crosses, dots. Ukrainian beaded pattern looks more rhythmic. Mountains, rivers and flowering gardens all these is reflected in color. So why do all Africans appreciate it and create this beaded beauty up to now. While Ukrainians consider it to be of anti-fashion and out-of-date.
It is primarily the result of the continuous progress. Africans have got the lowest level of literacy among the world population, living in the beautiful Mother Nature space. So as 1000 years ago people continue to express their inner world through handmade items. They even communicate via beaded necklace language. That's why African culture attracts designers from all over the world.


Speaking about us.

Italian Vogue Accessory recently wrote that “gerdan” is a trend of the season.  


"Small things count" brand
How often do you meet Ukrainian it-girls thinking about gerdan as something really trendy? Ukrainians think that every haute couture embroidered collection has got something from Ukrainian tradition even when it is far from that.
So maybe it's the time for the right cultural start?


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