The Maasai people are well known for their traditional handmade beaded jewellery – it has been an important part of Maasai culture for many years. Almost daily Maasai women set aside time to work on beaded jewellery like colourful necklaces, bracelets, and pendants. It is considered the duty of every Maasai woman to learn the jewellery making craft. Traditionally the beadwork is made by women but is worn by both sexes, and has important cultural significance. The beadwork an individual wears reflects their age and social status.
The tradition of Maasai beadwork dates back hundreds of years. It became significant and known to the rest of the world in the 19th century after trade with other tribes. Initially, Maasai women used dried grass, sticks, clay, seeds, and shells as materials to make the traditional ornaments. Over time, they began using attractive beads made of plastic and glass that they obtained from other communities through trade.
Massai beadwork is worn according to the age and social status of an indivual. Unmarried females wear large flat beaded discs around their neck when dancing as a sign of grace and flexibility. A woman getting married wears a very elaborate and heavily beaded neck piece on her wedding day, and once married, she wears a long necklace with blue beads. Those of a higher social status wear more colorful beads.
There are a number of different colors used in Maasai beadwork, and each one holds a special meaning: red signifies blood, bravery, and unity. White represents health, peace, and purity. Blue is the color of the sky and represents energy, and green is the color of grass, which signifies the land and production. Black represents the people and the struggle they must endure. Yellow symbolizes the sun, fertility, and growth, and orange represents warmth, generosity, and friendship.
According to thomsonsafaris.com and hadithikenya.com