African waist beads go all the way back to the 15th century. They were worn by women of  ALL shapes & sizes as a celebration of womanhood, healing, body shaping, status, sexuality, femininity, protection, fertility, spirituality, and wealth.

Weight Control / Body Shaping

Belly beads were used by African women as instruments of body shaping. For women who don’t regularly weigh themselves, belly beads served as a sign of weight gain or weight loss depending on how tight or loose the beads became.  The beads would slide lower if you lost weight and would be higher if you gained a few pounds. Adorning the waist and hip area with strands of waist beads, also 'layering' would achieve great results in body shaping around the mid section.

Growth & Maturity

Throughout several countries in Africa, belly beads have been used to adorn girls and women and indicate how they have matured and grown. Traditionally, mothers adorned their daughters with waist beads during their first menstruation as a rise of passage into womanhood. New belly beads were looked forward to, as they symbolized a healthy life, and the special things about a woman that set her apart from a man.


Belly beads can also be worn for seduction. Not only do they symbolize a woman’s progress in life, but they honor her sexuality as well. Wives would attract their husbands with the rattle of beads or use them to signal their fertility at certain times of the month.