Antique Tuareg Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North/ West Africa (3149TKM)


H: 3.375”  W: 3.25”  Thick: 1.25” Circum: 5.75” | FREE SHIPPING

Tuareg wrist and ankle manillas made from sand molds were usually shaped in a large C. Recognized for their unique etched designs, symbols, motifs and faceted knob ends, Each is a one-of-a kind creation. This antique bracelet is composed of massive finials with 12 facets containing detailed hand-etched and hammered designs including raised circles. Easily portable bracelets were an important form of currency for nomadic populations, although large ones likely served to store value rather than a form of jewelry. It 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.


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  peoples from Africa, especially in West-Africa, created metalwork African-jewelry 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-art 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.



Additional information

Place of Origin

Africa, North and West Africa


Antique (1200-1920)


19th Century

Materials and Technique

Bronze/brass/copper alloy

Dimensions (inches)

H: 3.37" W: 3.25" Thick: 1.25" Circum: 5.75"

Dimensions (metric)

16 oz, H: 8.56 cm W: 8.255cm Thick: 3.275 cm Circum: 14.60 cm


1 lb


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size