gold weight

Gold weight in the form of a high-backed chair with two birds perched on the back. It has four legs joined by bars at the base, and is decorated with a stud design, apart from the seat. The form is based on a Portuguese 'Apsim Chair', traded along the coast of West Africa from the 18th century onwards. Such stools were popular among chiefs, and later associated with similar regimes of sacredness as Ashanti stools.

Brass weights, such as this example, were used to measure gold dust across Islamic West Africa. Gold dust was a form of currency, used predominantly by Akan speaking people from the 14th century to 1900, when they were banned by the British Government in Ghana in an attempt to standardize trade using a monetary system. Such weights would have been made by goldsmiths using the ‘lost wax’ technique, where a shape is carved or molded out of wax before being dipped in several layers of clay slip. Once the slip has dried, molten brass is poured into the mould, replacing the wax by melting it. These weights would often initially have been commissioned by an individual, and then passed down the family line through inheritance. An individual would thus have a very personal set of weights which they would use throughout their lifetime. Such weights often tell a story, representing items of prestige, or characters from popular stories or proverbs.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

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