Antique Tuareg Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North/West Africa (3152XKM)


H: 3.875”  W: 3.5”  Thick: 1.125” | FREE SHIPPING

This 18-19th century manilla from the Tuareg people in Mali and Niger was fashioned using a sand mold in a distinctive horseshoe shape with bulbous rounded faceted ends. The ends are finely decorated with hand hammered raised diamond shapes enclosing finely incised checkerboard cross-hatching which have faded from age and wear. Individual Tuareg tribes each use unique symbolism and decorative motifs passed down for generations. This bracelet is in excellent condition with a fine patina indicating much wear and some pitting, scrapes and discolorations consistent with its age. It comes with a wood and metal stand.

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


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


For centuries the Tuareg, historically nomadic tribal peoples who traversed the Sahel region and Saharan-Africa, like most African peoples, especially in West-Africa, created metalwork African-art arm and ankle bracelets that were 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 where there were no banks or conventional currency exchange systems. Individual Tuareg tribes each use unique African-jewelry 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 African-metalwork 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.

African Jewelry, African Slave Trade Bracelets/Manilla, North Africa, Saharan Africa, Tuareg, West Africa


Additional information

Place of Origin

Africa, West Africa

Materials and Technique

Bronze/brass/copper alloy


Antique (1200-1920)


18th-19th Century

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 3.875" W: 3.5" D: 1.125"

Dimensions (metric)

H:8.55cm W: 8.89cm D: 2.54cm


15 oz


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size


6” to 11.9”


0” to 5.9”