Round Agate Necklace
Union of Peasants for Self Development, Niger
Discovering Tuareg Jewelry Stacy Spivak, Ten Thousand Villages Buyer
Situated on ancient trans-Saharan trade route, the city of Agadez was founded by the Tuareg in the 14th century. Nomadic people of North Africa, the Tuareg are known as The Blue Men of the Sahara for their vivid indigo robes and veils.
We travel past the maze of mud homes in the city to a village on the sahel, the desert’s edge, to visit a Tuareg family of jewelry makers. They have been practicing their craft for generations, since their ancestors crossed the desert collecting salt to trade - ounce for ounce - for gold, to be turned into grand jewelry for their kings.
Here the homes are tents made of woven mats stretched over a wooden frame. We are served bread cooked in the sand. We watch as camel caravans pass from Agadez into the Tenere Desert. It will be several days before they reach the salt pits of northeastern Niger, where they will trade millet, dates and the still indispensable salt.
It seems little has changed in hundreds of years. Their canvas is now fine silver, but every intricate design has a traditional, ceremonial meaning; Tuareg jewelry is still fit for a king.
Jewelry is initialed by the artisan in glyphs from the Tifinagh alphabet.