Antique Tuareg King Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North/West Africa, (3161YOE)


This 19th century Tuareg “king” manilla bracelet/anklet was fashioned using a sand mold in a distinctive horseshoe shape. King manillas are large curved bars made from brass, copper, and iron in the shape of horseshoe and are typically less curved than the smaller manillas that resemble an open bracelet. It is composed of massive flat finials with 10 facets containing raised diamond shapes with fine detailed hand- etched and hammered cross-hatched designs and triangles with raised circles.  This manilla is in excellent condition with appropriate signs of age and use and comes with a wood and metal stand.

Click here for the Blog Manillas: Former African Trade Currency.



For centuries the Tuareg, historically nomadic tribal peoples who traversed the Sahel region and Saharan-Africa Desert, like most peoples from Africa, especially in West-Africa, created African-jewelry as metalwork arm and ankle bracelets that were African-art symbols of wealth and status, fashion adornments used ceremonially for births, coming of age, marriages and burials, to trade for animals and domestic and agricultural goods and as a medium of exchange using African-metalwork where there were no banks or conventional currency exchange systems. Individual Tuareg tribes each use unique symbolism and decorative motifs passed down for generations. Dassine Oult-Yemma, the Poet of the Ahaggar, explained that sticks indicate legs of men, camels and other animals, crosses or x’s indicate guiding signals at roads and circles have a spiritual meaning. “We start from our heart, and move from circle to circle ever more widely, into the Circle of Life, like the horizon circles around you and your herd.” (Hagan and Meyers).

During the colonization of Africa in the 1500s, the British, French, Portugese, Belgians and Dutch appropriated these bracelets and manufactured their own versions they named manillas. Once a beautiful indigenous form of currency and adornment for and by African peoples, manillas became the currency for the slave trade to the Americas and were referred to as slave bracelets, slave trade money, currency slave bracelets and slave currency to purchase slaves to work on plantations in the Americas. Slave bracelets were finally prohibited for use by foreign traders under the Manilla Currency Ordinance of 1919 but continued to be used by the West African Currency Board for several decades. The 1940s and 50’s witnessed a strong and successful movement to collect, confiscate and meltdown manillas to use for other purposes. Manillas are still worn by slave descendants in the Caribbean as a significant family treasure to pass on to future generations.


Helen E. Hagan and Lucile Meyers, Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols, Xlibrus Corporation, 2006.



Additional information

Place of Origin

Africa, North and West Africa


Antique (1200-1920)


19-20th Century

Materials and Technique

Bronze/brass/copper alloy

Dimensions (inches)

H: 4” W: 4.625” Thick: 1.5” Circum: 10. 5”

Dimensions (metric)

H: 10.16 cm W: 11.73 cm Thick: 3.81 cm Circum: 25.78 cm


22.9 oz


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Reference Number