True story: Vinyl Record Beads were one of the first products offered at WSW, and have long been some of my personal favorite beads. From the time I first encountered these strands comprised of thousands of thin disc beads, I've been fascinated by the patterns in the colors. You can often find sporadically placed neon pink hidden amongst the traditional red, yellow, and black.
We've been big fans of these colorful heishi discs for years now. So much so that one of our African bead vendors jokingly calls my son "Jigida", which is what waist beads are called in parts of Nigeria, where waist beads are said to have originated with the Yoruba tribe. Some other names for waist beads are :
Giri-Giri, Yomba, Jigida, Jel-Jelli, Bin Bin, Ileke idi and Djalay Djalay.
Vintage African Vinyl Record Beads from WomanShopsWorld
As a collector and dealer of beads, I am always eager to learn more about their origins and histories. I love hearing stories about beads from my faithful and wonderful bead dealers, who have been saving secret stashes of vintage Vinyl Record Beads for me for years, because they know my love for these beads runs deep. I say stories, because the legend and lore that surrounds African beads is seemingly endless; but what I am taught, I always to try share with others.
At WSW, we encourage all forms of creativity, whether that comes in the form of using goods as they are intended, or repurposing them. But we also think it's important to understand the origin of goods, as that gives them deeper meaning and gives the wearer a greater understanding and appreciation of them.
Vinyl Record Beads are definitely having a moment in the fashion world, and seem to have become more mainstream. Both the traditional ones from Africa, as well as the same concept that is now made in China (we presume, though there is lots of debate about this in the bead world). Theres something about all of those thin little stacks of color that add up to lots of joy and a bold accessory statement.
Image credit: Ronny Reportage
Before we dive into the current fashions being made with these beads, let's explore the origin of waist beads: what they are, what they represent, and why they are worn.
Waist beads date back to ancient Egypt and have been worn by various tribes for many different reasons and representations, including but not limited to:
womanhood, femininity, fertility, healing, spirituality, sexuality, seduction, body shaping, weight monitoring, first menses, protection, and wealth, amongst other things. The material of waist beads varies, and while we're personally fans of the vinyl ones, they are also often made of glass, crystals, bone, coral, and other natural materials.
You may be wondering why these beads are called "Vinyl Record Beads." That's because when they were first made, they were literally made from old vinyl records. There is lots of lore surrounding these beads, and it is nearly impossible to decipher the truth in the midst of the legends. While they are not made from recycled vinyl records anymore, they still hold their name along with their rich history. The current material is likely vinyl, or a modified plastic, and there is some debate about the origin of the newer beads that are currently on the market. Some say they are made in Ghana, some say Germany, others say the material comes from China and the beads are made in Ghana.
Photo of bead market in West Africa, north of Benin. Source: Beadcollector.net
While it's nearly impossible to pinpoint what has caused a recent interest and trend with Vinyl Record Beads, we're attributing it to the Netflix smash hit series Outer Banks. After the series launched we were inundated with requests from customers showing a picture of series lead Kiara in her beachy heishi necklaces. Do a quick google search on "Outer Banks Jewelry" and you'll immediately see the source of the trend!
Kiara Necklace as seen on Outer Banks, by Elsie Frieda
Kiara on the beach, image credit: Netflix, from PopSugar article
Popsugar even wrote an article about the trend last May, cementing their spot in the pop culture sphere of 2020.
These thin little beads quickly stack up to make quite a bold statement! Since the launch of the show, we've seen these beads show up everywhere! The shape of these disc shaped beads is called "heishi" and there's currently a huge heishi bead trend in the accessories world, whether in these Vinyl Record Beads, or in other materials.
Bracelets made with Vinyl Record Beads by @Fancy.Flamingo.Design