Our African Trade Bead Backstory

There we were in the parking lot out behind our studio on a freezing cold day in December checking out what the guy who knocked on our door was selling out of his van. Shady? Safe? Legit?

Completely safe and legit. We were more than happy to see Ebrima Sillah of Bead Paradise II in Oberlin, Ohio, who swung by with TONS of beautiful, handmade African trade beads. In the cold, we peered into the many tubs of beads in the van and picked a few to bring inside.

And that’s when the fun began! We were in hog heaven as Ebrima pulled out strand after strand of the most gorgeous beads. And, we learned so much from him about African trade beads—including those made in Venice, Italy with millefiori techniques—just like what we do at She Beads with our clay canes!

The antique glass trade beads were mainly produced in the 1600s-1800s in Europe. They were used by European merchants to trade with African peoples for palm oil, spices, precious stones, gold and ivory. However, there are even older African trade beads (called “ancient”) that were made as long as 2,000 years ago out of natural materials (such as amber, wood and coral) by tribal people throughout West and East Africa.

Newer varieties of African trade beads are made from recycled glass in Ghana and batik bone in Kenya, both of which is what we bought. We were glad to hear that Bead Paradise has long-standing relationships with many bead traders who typically run a small family business (like us) and are creating job opportunities in their communities.

Out of everything Ebrima showed us, Sandy picked out the beads in colors she used to create the Pistachio arm candy bracelets and necklaces. I picked out beads in two color sets—one for the Crème Brûlée collection and one for the Raspberry Tart collection. Inspired by the gorgeous colorful beadwork of African culture, each color story holds the history and traditions of West Africa. In each one, we were inspired to create some new, unique designs, like the Sheath necklace with 

Shop our new collections in Pistachio, Crème Brûlée and Raspberry Tart!

Thanks for the Memories, MJ

Every year around Valentine’s Day, I think back to about how She Beads got started and marvel at our journey over the last 22 years. So, just thought I’d share…

It was 1993 and I was on the medical team for the Chicago Bulls as an X-ray technician. One day, I was chilling in the locker room making beaded bracelets for a fundraiser at my kids’ grade school. Just a hobby for me, using beads out of a catalog and stored in my basement.

So, Michael Jordan walks by and says “Hey, Sandy, make me some beads.” I tried to resist, but really, who can resist Michael Jordan. ;-) So, quick-like-a-bunny, I got serious about learning how to make my own beads out of clay. And, I taught myself how to make designs in the ancient art of millefiori, which actually came pretty easily given my experience in reading patterns in X-rays.

On February 17, 1993—Michael Jordan’s birthday—I gave him a clay bead bracelet that I’d designed just for him. It was black and red (the Bulls’ colors) with a touch of ivory. He loved it! (I called the design “MJ”…and we still make beads in that pattern to this day…) Then teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman said “Me, too!” And the rest is history.

He Beads was born.

I stayed with the Bulls and ran He Beads out of my basement for a few years. By then, I’d expanded to add She Beads for women. And, I was ready to go full-time when we opened our first retail storefront in June 2000 in Wilmette, Ill.

We’ve since added two more product lines—Charity Beads, where we donate a portion of the price to our charity partners, and Intention Beads, which are talismans made at auspicious astrological times.

Now, 22 years later, I’m handing the reins to my daughter, Alexandra, to bring a new vision of She Beads to a new generation. She has been by my side from the start. And I’m looking forward to being by hers while I focus on combining my passions of astrology and bead-making with Intention Beads.

Happy Birthday, Michael! And thanks for the memories!

Today is the day we are launching our BULLS ITEMS. We will be uploading them today

Welcome, Saturn! (Again)

This morning at 10:45 am, the planet Saturn returned to exactly where it was when I was born—my second “Saturn Return.”

Whenever a planet returns to the place it started at your birth, it’s an important time that marks the start of a new cycle. For example, our birthdays are really marking an annual return of the Sun to its place in the sky at our birth—a Solar Return.

So, anyway, this was my second Saturn Return. Second because, unlike the Sun, it takes about 29 years for Saturn to travel through each sign of the zodiac. And, I have to say, I am embracing the lessons that taskmaster Saturn has to offer as I embark on my last third of life. So, a Saturn Return is big. If we’re lucky, we get three in a lifetime.

For starters, it was a little thing—but still an appropriate expression of this time of my life. My hairdresser and I decided just last weekend to let gray be part of my otherwise typically blond color. And, I’m perfectly OK with it—especially since the sign Leo (hair, boldness) is on my ascendant (outward identity) and I absolutely know how to rock it!

More interesting is that I just started a class last night at my spiritual center called “Foundations” that is exactly about what this Saturn Return is about for me.

When I was born, Saturn was in the sign of Sagittarius in my 4th house. Saturn is the planet that teaches us lessons. Sagittarius is the sign that supports freedom and exploration, and is ruled by the planet Jupiter, which governs belief systems and philosophy. The 4th house is at the bottom of a chart, so represents your foundation, home and family.

At my first Saturn Return, I was a fairly new mother and had some tough lessons to learn from Saturn about creating a stable home. I didn’t know anything about astrology then, but I can see now that what I went through was Saturn teaching me some lessons because I hadn’t been paying attention.

But, I got through it, and here I am at my second Saturn go-round. This time, I’m a successful businesswoman and professional astrologer who understands how to use the energy the planets give us. So, at my second Saturn return, I’m exploring my spiritual foundation and actively participating with Saturn to establish a well-grounded root system that represents who I am today.

I am letting go of the past and its associated karma. I am studying the classic “Living the Science of Mind” by Ernest Holmes. I am reveling in the personal isolation of living all alone in my own house for the first time in decades because hibernating is how I ground myself.

Today’s Saturn Return is a big marker in my life. A time to reflect on where I’ve been. And, more importantly, a time to recognize that I’m on the right path—aware of the lessons and gifts that Saturn brings and actively applying them to my life.

Good Morning, Sunshine!

The sunrise and I have never been the best of friends. But all of that changed on the first day I had my very first Personal Intention Bracelet with this affirmation:

 “Every sunrise is my gift, to me and from me. I live with love, excitement and freedom. I am successful.”

The sun woke me up that first morning, coming through just the smallest of cracks in a drawn shade and through the door that normally is closed. AND, it was the first day of sunshine we’d had in Chicago for going on three weeks. I can’t tell you how many people that day commented on it—customers at the shop, the mailman, friends. Sunshine was everywhere—even on an NPR segment with a weatherman and in song titles I heard all day on Spotify!

OK, I get it already! I am manifesting my intention! Right now! Right away!

It took me awhile to get there, though. I wanted my first Personal Intention Bracelet to be created at a time that was incredibly meaningful to me—even though my Mom had been nudging me to do one since she first started making them in 2010. Finally, the time was right when I decided it was time to take more ownership in my life, both spiritually and with my career.

So, I talked it over with my Mom, Sandy Rueve, and she found the perfect astrological time to support my intentions and goals. In fact, as we were discussing the chart, it sparked even more ideas and inspirations!

Just like any client she has worked with, Sandy started making the beads for my Personal Intention Bracelet at the exact time we’d picked. And, that’s when I locked myself into a quiet room to meditate on my intention, wrote it down on the first page of a brand-new planning notebook and just kept repeating my affirmation over and over and over. Sure, I’d made promises to myself before, but this was different. This promise I made to myself was in a solemn and meditative state.

My first Personal Intention Bracelet has been an eye-opening experience (no pun intended). I’m sure all those “sun” things would have happened anyway, whether I’d done my bracelet or not. But, the Sun blindsided me that day, and now I know that I have opened a door and let the Sun in.

My bracelet reminds me that the sunrise is a gift to me each day to feel the way I feel and a gift to do what I do. And, now, I’m allowing myself to have it at the beginning of each day. I’m getting up earlier to greet the Sun, and I look forward to each day. Because now I am manifesting my intention and recognize that each day the sun rises is a gift to me—and what I do with that day is my gift to me.

Inquire about a Personal Intention Bracelet

December 19, 2014


Our Holiday Shipping Schedule


Here’s how to solve all your last-minute Christmas gift dilemmas:


(1) ORDER:  Shop from the SHIPS TODAY section of the website.
**If you are interested in an item not currently listed under SHIPS TODAY, please call for availability- We'd love to help.**

(2) SHIP: 

  • If ordering before 1 PM (Central) on Friday, December 19: Use regular Priority Mail shipping for delivery by Christmas Eve.
  • If ordering before 1 PM (Central) on Monday, December 22: Requires Priority Mail Express shipping for Christmas Eve delivery.

PLEASE NOTE: Order items from the "SHIPS TODAY" category! 




Happy Holidays

The holidays are here and we are ready! The elves have been busy and hard at work in the studio. Santa's little helpers have been working to ship out orders daily. 

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things...Our window display is finally done. Check it out! Happy Holidays from all of us here at She Beads. Enjoy.











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