In the early 1970’s, beautiful antique glass beads were worn as objects of adornment by hippies in Europe and America. The beads were exceptionally rare and their origins were a mystery. They were believed to have come from the small town of Guelmime in southern Morocco, but travellers to the town were told their source was somewhere beyond the Sahara Desert in Africa where they were a highly valued form of trading currency, hence the name, Trade Beads.
In 1970, the founders of Baku followed the hippie trail to Marrakech and crossed the Sahara with the mission of finding the supply source of the mysterious Trade Beads. After traveling for weeks overland through Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, scouring every central market place in the towns along the way they had seen nothing that resembled ‘Trade Beads’. It seemed the mission had failed and there was no point in continuing further. Before starting the journey back to London they decided to take a break and experience the much acclaimed Ghanaian Railways Overnight Sleeper to the inland city of Kumasi in an antiquated ex-Scottish steam train. Next day when wandering the Kumasi Central market they discovered a bead trader in a dilapidated shack with a huge wooden box full of the absolutely most beautiful multi coloured Trade Beads. He was a Hausa man dressed in long flowing blue cloth and we returned to Kumasi eight times to buy Trade Beads from him. He became our good friend.
Birthplace of BAKU and one of the great antique trading centres of the world in the 20th century.
The bustling Portobello Road Antique Market where you could find everything from 18th century tea cups to exotic jewellery was where we established our first store trading in rare beads and jewellery from Africa.
Originating in the 1800s as a fruit and vegetable market, by the 1950’s the Portobello Road Markets had become an internationally recognized trading place for Antiques and Objets D’Art from all over the world
Returning to London after crossing the Sahara and acquiring a sizeable collection of Trade Beads we opened a tiny shop at 80 Portobello Road and started selling loose beads strung on simple leather cording. The shop became a popular ‘hang out’ for travelling hippies entranced by the psychedelic colours of the trade beads and the atmosphere of 70’s rock music and marijuana smoke. This was the peak period of the 1970’s hippie culture and London was a centre.
1980’s EXPANDED TO AUSTRALIA
BAKU opened the first Australian Bead shop in Chapel Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. Stores in Centrepoint, Parramatta and Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, New South Wales soon followed.
MOVED TO FUKUOKA, JAPAN
After many years in Australia we decided to sell our business and move to Japan, the land and people we have always loved. We still have a large collection of antique beads including many glass Trade Beads collected in Africa over a 50 year period. Our bead trading business is starting again now based in Fukuoka, Japan.