9 Asante Brass Rings Africa JK Brown Collection
The Asante/Ashanti Empire, known for its rich history of creating intricate jewelry, played a significant role in shaping the craft production and use of jewelry in the region. The empire, founded by the Akan people who migrated from the Sahel and Sahara, had access to gold and interacted with Islamic artists and traders.
The Ashanti Empire placed great importance on gold jewelry, attributing supernatural abilities and spiritual power to it. They believed that gold objects could protect the empire's power and ensure the safe spiritual travels of the deceased. This belief in the power of gold contrasted with some other societies that considered gold to be a negative force, leading them to make jewelry from silver instead.
As the Ashanti Empire expanded and conquered other peoples, they would demand tribute, which sometimes introduced new methods of working with metal to the empire. These methods included lost-wax casting and special hammering techniques. Lost-wax casting, originally from North Africa, became a popular technique used by artisans in Ghana, including the Ashanti.
This technique involves sculpting an image in wax, encasing it in a mold with an inlet, and pouring molten bronze into the mold. The wax melts away upon contact with the bronze, leaving behind a metal replica of the original wax sculpture. This process presents challenges as imperfections may only become apparent after the casting is complete. Furthermore, each wax model can only be used once, preventing exact reproductions.
Today, the Ashanti kingdom continues to exist as a sub-national traditional state within Ghana, and members of the Ashanti community still wear gold, bronze, and beads in special ceremonies, preserving the tradition of jewelry as a symbol of status and cultural heritage.
Provenance: From the JK Brown Collection:
Kathie and Jerry Brown have been collecting trade beads for more than 50 years. They had a business selling them for many years, called Thunder and Lightning. According to Jerry, Kathie was the lightning, and I was the thunder!
Their collecting began in 1967 when they met a Peace Corps volunteer who was selling his collection to finance a school for African children - and the Browns bought it all. Over the years, they've amassed thousands of strands of Venetian and other European trade beads, as well as made-in-Africa beds and jewelry. They sold at Mountain Man rendezvous and other events. Africa Direct is very proud to be the new owners of this extraordinary collection.