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Necklace made of beads, South Africa, 1900–1984

This bead necklace is 36 centimetres long. Beadwork like this has a special meaning for the Xhosa people of South Africa. Both bride and groom wear traditional beadwork at Xhosa weddings, and beads are also worn by tribal leaders. Beads reveal important stages in a Xhosa woman’s life, showing her social status and even her age. White glass beads stand for purity, red for royalty, green for new life, and yellow for fertility.

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