assortment of african jewellery

Elegant Jewellery 101 for the Fashion Enthusiast

Posted by Mary Bosibori on


Your jewellery encompasses any elegant decorative items that you wear for adornment. They include rings, earrings, bracelets, brooches, and cufflinks. Jewellery may be attached to clothes or the body. You will hear people call them trinkets, ornaments, jewels, gems or even regalia. Different cultures across the world have identifying jewellery with deeper meaning to them than just adornment. In the olden days, people would wear ornaments for supernatural protection, and as status symbols or to prevent certain illnesses. Today people wear a variety of elegant jewellery but not always because it has a deeper meaning than simply adding spice to their outfit.

People now wear jewellery from other parts of the world because it is all about enhancing beauty rather than warding off evil or bringing luck. African jewellery has gained a special place among fashion icons, trendsetters and fashion lovers all over the world who are in a near frenzy trying to adorn themselves. Rather than copying traditional African jewellery, creatives have found a way of incorporating other elements to make it wearable and elegant for the new millennium. Contemporary African jewellery as is known has caused ripples in the market for its ability to stir people whenever it is worn.

African jewellery

There are three main regions in Africa for a jeweler. The Sahara, Equatorial, and Savannah regions are so classified for the climate, which dictates the materials available for accessories. Animal materials are commonly used in the Sahara, Brass, and Copper in Savannah, Equatorial region gained glass beads, copper, coral and even copper from trading in ivory and gold.

  • Benin (Nigeria)

Royalty in Benin – a kingdom in the equatorial region – wore brass ornaments on very special occasions. Today, Nigerian women still adorn elegant brass jewellery to entice men by affording them a beautiful wiggle when they walk.

  • Mali

In the Savannah region, the Dogon people of Mali usually wear jewellery made of copper alloy and ivory. Their simple ornaments are usually worn as a statement of their religious beliefs.

  • Morocco

In the Sahara region, Berbers and Tuaregs dominate with silver, brass, glass. Jewellery from this region is usually big, symmetrical and geometric and many have to call it simply magnificent. People in these parts adorn themselves for the sake of religious belief, beauty, attraction, and protection from disease.

The whole world knows the Fulani for their jewellery designing. The most easily recognizable Fulani jewellery are super-sized earrings that are usually made in gold and silver. Being a nomadic community, the Fulani wear their wealth inside jewellery.

Throughout Africa, jewellery was worn to show status, as a religious symbol, charm or amulet. Kings and noble people would wear different jewellery from their subjects as a sign of status. In some places, a person wearing many pieces of bone jewellery was seen as wealthy and very lucky.

Today, African jewellery has been embraced the world over for its incredible beauty and uniqueness. Designers usually incorporate their ideas into traditional pieces to make them more wearable by the modern individual. Contemporary Africa inspired jewellery is currently trending especially after being showcased in many famous movies and films.

Fun facts about African jewellery

statement african jewellery

  • Ostrich egg jewellery dating back 40,000 was discovered in Kenya
  • Unlimited materials can be used in African jewellery from elephant hair to gold
  • Different colors and materials used in jewellery have different meanings
  • African jewellery is handcrafted

Types of African Jewellery

  • Animal bones and horn
  • Beadwork
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Ostrich eggs
  • Cowrie shells

Rules of Wearing African Jewellery

African jewellery is no doubt the current trend but for many people, it can be intimidating. You do not need to be afraid of donning pieces inspired by Africa if you follow these basic rules:

  • Less is sometimes more than enough

Bold Africa inspired pieces can stand-alone but if you want to wear more than one try to balance things. Earrings and necklaces, for example, sit so close together and are therefore a poor choice. If you must, adorn a bracelet and necklace or earrings and rings to avoid a cluttered look. When wearing more than one piece of African jewellery, make sure they coordinate, do not go for clashing patterns and choose the same metallic color.

Some statement pieces like bib and shoulder wrap necklaces should stand on their own. Adding other pieces to such a look would only take away from your statement of style.

  • Mixing metals

In the past, there were strict jewellery rules but today, people are very happy to break them in the hope of starting new trends. Mixing metals is now acceptable, women can wear rings on any finger, you can mix gemstones with faux stones and matchy-matchy is no longer a thing.

Jewellery Etiquette

  • Everyday jewellery includes wedding bands for married people, a wristwatch and a simple necklace. Reserve other items for special occasions.
  • Wearing jewellery to work can be daunting but you can; stick to wearing only earrings in a conservative office. Studs and small hoops are acceptable in less conservative offices but they should not be distracting. Noisy, sparkly jewellery is simply unacceptable at work, as it would only distract your colleagues.
  • For formal events, you can unleash sparkling pieces but be careful not to overdo it. A single statement piece is enough and can be accompanied by more subtle pieces. Sets are acceptable but you carry the risk of looking too matchy.
  • Anything goes for a party but never fall for the temptation to wear too much jewellery that it overshadows you.

What to Wear With What


  • Chokers

A close-fitting necklace made of any material including beads, leather, and brass among others. These necklaces had a bad rap in the ’80s but celebrities like Kylie Jenner have helped popularize them so much so that they are now a fashion staple.

To wear a choker properly, choose smaller earrings that will not touch or distract from it. You must also factor in the neckline when wearing this piece of jewellery. Deep V, strapless and 1 shoulder necklines work great with chokers. Statement chokers are thicker than usual but make sure they are not too heavy or tight around the neck.

  • Long necklaces

Long necklaces are common in the fashion world that you would think it is easy to wear them. However, people seem to make several mistakes that take away from their jewellery. High necks and collars, as well as high low silhouettes, are a great way to wear the classic long necklace as it creates proportion.

Wearing long clothes with long necklaces tends to look off and may make it look like you’re overdressed. Shorter lengths and multiple pieces will help draw attention to your necklace without overwhelming your look.


The hoop, stud, statement, drop; all these options can make choosing very difficult. Small hoops and drop earrings are best for formal events. For parties and less formal events, you can unleash your large hoops, feathers or other statement earrings you may have. It is important to coordinate earrings with your outfit but avoid directly matching, as this would make you look like a doll.

Your face style matters when choosing earrings. Dangling earrings are not ideal for the woman with a long face but they work great with a round face.


There was a time when wearing rings was all about symbolism but now, fashion has taken over. You can adorn any finger with a ring as long as you are comfortable. Stackable rings are the current trend and it does not have to be the same metal color as was the rule. Men and women are free to wear rings as they wish. You can mix different styles or choose one to coordinate with your outfit.


From simple to statement, bracelets have long been a fashion essential. For work, a bracelet should be thin and non-distracting. Chunky bangles are ideal for less formal events. As stacking is trending, do not be afraid to layer your bracelets but bearing in mind the event. Make sure to choose fitting bracelets as an ill fit is simply awkward. Bracelets are best worn with strapless, halter and short-sleeved clothes.

african bracelets

What Should I Wear With my Dress?

Dresses make us feel pretty but accessorizing them can be very daunting. Different lengths, necklines, cuts, and styles dictate what jewellery goes and what would totally kill a dress? You need to be very careful of all your jewellery choices to make sure they coordinate with your outfit and make you look even better.

  • Halter dresses are best accessorized with triangular pendants. This is because the side lines of halter tops flow toward the face forming a triangular shape. A like shaped pendant pointing down is the best way to bring balance. You will do justice to a halter by layering on your bracelets. These are a better choice than large earrings or necklaces that could overwhelm your look.
  • Tube tops will look instantly better with a simple choker that elongates the neckline too.
  • Polo necklines can make your neck look shorter so you should always make it appear longer with a long chain.
  • Square necklines are best for showing off angular necklaces with the hard lines going on.
  • If wearing long necklines, choose slim pendants in order to simplify the look and keep things classy.
  • Bib necklaces work perfectly with crew necklines.

Different Jewellery and its Meaning

While it may not be your intent when wearing it, all jewellery has meaning and symbolism around the world. The meaning varies according to the materials used, country and even the materials used. Here are some examples;

Meaning According to Materials

  • Jade

It is a stunningly beautiful yet very hard stone with a significant role in chines culture. Traditionally, people used jade to ward off evil spirits. In Chinese jade jewellery, you will often see large discs with holes in the middle as a representation of heaven. The holes are a way of communicating with the gods.

  • Turquoise

Among the Persians, turquoise represents heaven while in Greece maidens wore it as a symbol of purity. For the Navajo, such jewellery brings good health and happiness. It is also viewed as a sign of wealth.

  • Beads

Beaded jewellery symbolized one’s tribe, status, and religion. Among the Maasai, the beads show social status, becoming more elaborate with elevation in status. In Egypt pharaohs, priests, nobles and soldiers, wore beaded jewellery in different styles.

Meaning According to Symbols

  • Anchors usually represent hope
  • Crosses are often representative of the Christian faith
  • Arrows are a symbol of love, strength, and protection
  • 8 symbol on its side often represents eternity as do coiled snakes in Victorian jewellery
  • The scarab in ancient Egypt was a sign of regeneration and renewal

Birthstones and their Meanings

In Africa, people would set stones to their metal jewellery to spice things up but often these bore a deeper meaning. Most commonly, they would use birthstones that were associated with their birth months. In ancient times, wearing your birthstone brought protection and good vibes.

Here is a List of Birthstones by Month and Their Meanings:

  • January – Garnet is said to keep the wearer safe during travel
  • February – The amethyst gives courage, strengthens relationships and even keeps one sober
  • March – If you were born in March, wear the aquamarine to be safe from ocean dangers. People would also drink water that this stone was soaking in to cure liver, stomach and heart diseases
  • April – Diamonds were thought to bring courage in the ancient days in addition to symbolizing eternal love
  • May – For wisdom, growth, and patience wear your emeralds you May born
  • June – Pearls are a symbol of purity
  • July – Ruby has a deep red color that is associated with love and passion
  • August – The evening emerald or peridot will give you strength and if it is set in gold, you will not experience nightmares
  • September – Sapphire is a symbol of purity and wisdom. In the past, it was worn to protect against evil spirits
  • October – The opal protects eyesight and repels evil in addition to giving its wearer confidence
  • November – If you were born in November and wear topaz, it will give you more strength and wisdom
  • December – For you born in December, wear turquoise for good fortune, love, and success

Today people do not pay much attention to birthstones and will wear jewellery that simply pleases them. However, if you want to give meaningful gifts, it is always nice to know what different things stand for and what their impact would be.

Jewellery Trends 2019

It is always fun to know of upcoming trends before everyone so you get a chance to pull them off before they become boring. Well, I got you on that so welcome for a sneak peek into 2019 jewellery trends that you should totally consider.

  • Seashells

Be it the real thing or something inspired by them; you will be seeing lots of seashells inspired jewellery next year. Designers are already launching seashell jewellery that will certainly steal the show.

  • Extra-large earwear

This is surely the way to go! Be it hoops or cuffs, it is finally safe to wear super-sized jewels on the ears. In fact, the bigger it is the better. Antique earrings will also be making a comeback this year.

  • Piling

One Bracelets or necklace is no longer a valuable fashion tip. It will be common to see people in more than one necklace or bracelet. It is all in the spirit of the stacking trend as people try to go bold with their fashion accessories. Layered metal pendants seem to be the in-thing judging from pre-fall/winter 2018-19 fashion shows

  • Chains

Jewellery designers like Adele Dejak seem obsessed with ch Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are in chains everywhere you look.

  • Logo look

People are dropping their names everywhere. Everyday jewellery now features initials, full names and even acronyms.

  • Arm cuffs

This trend is not going away. From plain to bejeweled, you must have an arm cuff to show off to your peers. These ornaments can also be personalized to your desired shape.

  • Chokers with a twist

Away with the traditional choker. Now that we have embraced these rather controversial neckpieces, designers are going all out to make the unique piece. You will see everything from bejeweled to partial chokers to elevate your look.

  • Asymmetric

There have been some strange shapes in the pre-fall fashion events this time around. From half-moon hoops to a variety of asymmetric shapes, there will be plenty exaggerated ear wear choices for you.

From the trends we have seen, it is easy to tell that people are now adopting a more is more approach to jewellery. If you cannot wear it big, then layer on the rings, necklaces, and bracelets. We are some of the pioneers of this approach to jewellery. We will also see more of jewellery incorporated into clothing, as people grow even bolder about their choices.

Designers are just embracing African inspired jewellery but we have been at it for the last decade. Each of our collections is inspired by some aspect of the continent be it material or design. Of course, there are some European influences on the different items as I spent many years in England and Italy.

My Passion

Following my passion for all things African and jewellery, I was able to create an elegant brand that is now recognizable all over the world. Adele Dejak The Brand was launched after moving to Kenya where people simply found my personal pieces irresistible. Currently, we have tens of employees and work closely with different communities who provide the materials and skills we need to produce exquisite jewellery that is wearable by the modern day fashion lover. We give back to society in different ways including working with refugee communities in Kenya as well as offering training on the art of handmade jewellery. Design schools in the country have graced our workshop in Kiambu, Kenya trying to learn more about design and African concepts of jewellery making.

Our elegant brand has spread its wings to many parts of the world as we constantly collaborate with different brands like Samsung and CocaCola to display the beauty of our heritage. Besides just making money our business is aimed at inspiring a love for African cultures which sadly is eroding as people try to look modernized.

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