Bead color meaning. Using beads in jewelry making has been a tradition for thousands of years.
One of the most foundational parts of the process has been bead color meaning. Most if not all of the beads used have a unique message behind them that continues to tell a story and hold significance.
So for something with so much cultural history and tradition, what does the color of each bead mean?
Today, we’re going in-depth and finding out.
Why Do Bead Colors Have Meaning?
Traditionally, beads could be used to protect the individual wearing them and ward off evil entities and/or spells, as well as bring good fortune. Beads can also signify social and economic status.
One way to enhance a bead’s impactfulness and specific purpose is to separate beads by color.
Since colors have meanings that go back centuries, to wear them in bead form and hold the color’s meaning close to us brings feelings of protection and hope for the present and future.
Color and bead meanings alike originate from cultural movements, circumstantial coincidences, and psychological effects, such as how blue can seem calming and yellow can feel vivacious. Like red is to fire, warmth, intensity, and aggression, green is to healing and life.
What is the Meaning of Native American Bead Colors?
Native American bead colors and their meaning are varied and intricate. Considering that the Native American population was and is composed of different tribes, one bead color in one tribe may not mean the same thing in a different tribe.
However, since historical atrocities on the Native American community have eradicated much of certain tribes’ culture, there is only so much information available, so we will use as many colored beads that have a widely shared meaning as possible.
Brown beads symbolize animals and death. Black beads also mean death but can mean disease and cold, as well.
Blue beads signify wisdom, the moon, water, lightning, grief, and the sky. White beads usually mean snow, paradise, and peace, but can also mean mourning.
Green beads have a healing purpose, but also signal the rain, plant life, endurance, and the earth. Yellow beads, much like blue, can symbolize wisdom, but generally represent the sun and the day.
Last but not least, red beads signal war, blood and wounds, sunset, and also the earth.
Red overall represents the mountain and earth and in the Powhatan tribe, red, white, and black were worn by their warriors. The Coushatta tribe from Louisiana used red to symbolize blood and thus giving one’s own life to defend.
Yellow usually means power while orange can mean regeneration and gold is for luck, usually worn before harvesting the land. Purple wasn’t commonly worn by Native Americans since it signified death, but it could also mean wisdom from old age.
Green was considered youthful and symbolized freedom and plentifulness. The Tonto Apache tribe considered green a symbol of earth.
Sac and Fox tribes used green beads to signify peace and spring. Shamans also believed green had the ability to improve vision, since it was considered one with the earth and thus had healing properties.
Mardi Gras Bead Color Meaning
The first Mardi Gras season in the U.S started in 1699, but it wasn’t until 1872 that the colors purple, green, and gold were selected to represent the holiday.
Today, you’ll find beads of all colors being thrown off floats, but overall the ones with the most meaning are purple, green, and gold.
Purple beads represent justice, green symbolizes faith, and gold means power. Purple is also associated with royalty, hence the famous Rex Parade (Rex is Latin for King).
In addition, gold, the color of prosperity, accents the king nicely, and the green represents the king’s coat of arms.
Cherokee Bead Color Meanings
In the Cherokee tribe, colored beads and their symbolism were incredibly important for their shamans, as they believed each color symbolizes a necessary component of his spells.
The people living in the tribe looked to the Shaman’s knowledge and their instruction, which was intertwined with color symbolism and the beads being used.
Red symbolizes success, especially within the context of war. The color was also used to invoke the power of the red spirit, which guaranteed recovery from illnesses, long life, and success in love.
Black beads meant death. Priests used black beads to summon black spirits that resided in the West. In order to rip out their enemy’s soul, transport it back with them to the West and seal it in a black coffin, entrapping the soul for eternity.
Blue beads meant disappointment, dissatisfaction, and failure. In fact, someone wearing beads for the purpose of winning over a love interest’s heart wore red and prayed that anyone else fighting for their love’s affection would turn blue.
In other words, the loser within a love triangle would fail and feel enveloped in sadness forever.
Finally, white beads symbolize contentedness and peace. Often worn for ceremonies, white beads could also be part of men’s love charms, intended for attracting a woman and asking for their spirits to intertwine.
White beads were also used to pray for peace between the nations, as the color relates to that of the stone pipe used in peace treaties.
Waist Bead Color Meaning
Waist beads are originally a West African tradition. Specifically, the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, wore them to celebrate femininity, spirituality, sexuality, womanhood, wealth, and protection, as well as body shaping.
Nowadays, the tradition has spread not just through countries, but across continents. People wear waist beads for a variety of reasons, from keeping track of weight since the beads don’t stretch, to wearing them as a fashion statement.
The meaning of each colored bead has for the most part stayed the same.
Blue beads usually connotate healing, insightfulness, and honesty. Green beads bring abundance, fertility, and wealth.
Brown beads represent the earth and stability. Yellow beads signify clarity, happiness, and awareness, while a red represents passion and courage.
White beads are meant to symbolize purity and purple beads represent royalty and spirituality.
African Waist Bead Color Meaning
African waist beads are rarely ornamental; every bead has a meaning that plays into religion, ceremonies, and rituals. Cultural influence over these waist adornments can be found most in the color of the beads.
Historically, waist beads have been worn since the 15th century. Interestingly, you might find there’s an overlap between the meaning of colored beads today and the traditional meaning of colored beads in African culture.
Brown beads for instance, still represent the earth and solidity, while black beads symbolize power and shelter. Blue beads in African culture can mean loyalty and gold beads are supposed to bring good health and wealth.
Purple beads, once again, have aristocratic meaning that can also bring the wearer more in touch with their spirituality. Green always means nature and fertility.
Red is liveliness and pink symbolizes beauty, kindness, and caregiving. Finally turquoise beads signal communication and awareness of oneself and others.
These colors can be worn in a variety of combinations. In a way, they almost act as a personal code for the wearer, whether it be for others to see or the wearer to hold close as a part of their identity.
Mala Bead Color Meaning
Mala Beads are primarily meant for meditation and the meaning of each bead’s color holds great significance. Each strand usually contains 108 beads to represent the number of breaths or repetitions of a mantra that should be said during meditation.
With Mala beads, the type of stone plays an equally important role as the color. Red jasper brings creativity, empathy, and groundedness.
Pink rose quartz means harmony and unconditional love.
Orange amber is healing and relieves stress. It can also attract love and pleasure.
Yellow jade promotes moderation and emotional balance, while also inspiring openness in perspective.
Green malachite helps to break habits and maintain new ones. This bead is also intended to promote confidence.
Blue aventurine brings out one’s true identity and inspires courage. It can also bring success in business ventures.
Amethyst, which is purple, is said to ward off evil and enhance memory. It’s often given to highly-stressed individuals for more tranquility.
Black onyx symbolizes good health and inspires self-control. White and translucent mala beads, such as white howlite increase the attention span and inspire patience and a willingness to learn.
Brown agate beads signify maturity and improve observational skills.
What Do White Beads Symbolize?
White beads are used in all different cultures, but a pattern you’ll find is that their meaning symbolizes similar values no matter where you go.
From Native American and African tribes, to India, white signifies a tranquility and openness of the self. In general, white beads mean honesty, purity, and sincerity.
White beads also signify devotion, commitment, and spiritual growth. From a cultural, spiritual, and fashion-forward perspective, white beads are a foundational piece in a wearer’s collection.
The predominance and significance of the white bead is perhaps most notable because of its large-scale importance; for every individual, having some form of inner peace is a collective desire.
There’s a lot to know and learn when it comes to bead color meaning, but we hope that when choosing a color combo or a set of beads for whatever purpose. You make sure to put in the consideration of deciding which bead and color works for you.
Whether your choice to wear beads is purely for fashion or something a bit deeper, understanding cultural significance is key to wearing such beads in a respectful and influential manner.