Silver

Little silver has been found in the soils of Africa. Items made of silver are particularly associated with Tuareg groups in Niger and communities in Ethiopia.

In both cases, the raw material is Austrian silver thalers or dollars, originally produced to commemorate the reign of Empress Maria Theresa in 1780. They have been in use as currency or a store of wealth in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria as well as the former French colonies of West Africa since the latter part of the 18th century until at least the 1960s. Jewellery, and in Ethiopia, crosses, were and are made using the lost-wax process, by specialist silver smiths.

Where items datable to before the advent of these thalers exist, such as the medieval silver cross of the Ethiopian Christian centre of Lalibela, it is possible to suggest that earlier external sources of silver coinage had been utilised in the same manner.