Chances are you’ve never heard of the Statia blue beads…have you? No worries, for sure you’re not the only one out there who hasn’t. In fact, if it weren’t because my good friends Marlies and Sybolt decided to get married in St Eustatius, I would have never made it there or heard about these particular blue beads...
Statia is how locals and people living in the region affectionately call St Eustatius, an island located in the north eastern Caribbean, surrounded by St Maarten, St Barts, St Kitts & Nevis and Saba. To get there, you first need to fly into St Maarten and then you can just take one of the several 15-minute daily flights between the two islands.
St Eustatius wasn’t always a place unknown to the world. As a matter of fact, back in the 17th and 18th centuries this tiny island was a major trading center in the Caribbean and, therefore, everyone in the area knew it, from admirals to pirates. Nowadays, however, it is difficult to imagine this quiet island (with its current population of a little bit over 3,800 inhabitants) being a busy port.
At present, The Golden Rock, as this quaint island is also known, is definitely off the beaten path. It is the ideal destination if you’re looking for a place in the Caribbean with tons of history, where you can spend some quiet time and explore it at your own pace, without having to fight a multitude of tourists.
I had the fortune to visit this unique place two months ago to attend my friends’ wedding. Walking through Statia’s cobblestone streets I discovered the most picturesque houses and buildings, including an impressive fortress. I immediately realized why they had chosen this charming island as the venue to celebrate their love: Statia is a magical and mysterious place indeed and, as such, it is the perfect setting for a one-of-a-kind destination wedding.
Interestingly enough, it seems the island hasn’t seen that many weddings in the last years, so Marlies and Sybolt’s big day received a lot of attention. They were even interviewed before the wedding to be featured in the local newspaper. During this interview, Sybolt shared with the reporter that every time he visited Statia he went looking for blue beads with no luck, so he was always disappointed. She gently reminded him that you don’t find blue beads but the beads find you.
Now, you must be wondering what blue beads they were talking about. As it turns out, back in the 17th century these pentagonal shaped blue beads were used for trading and they made it to this region because they were also given to slaves as wages. Legend has it that when they were emancipated, former slaves threw them to the sea to celebrate their freedom. Today this particular type of blue beads can be found only in Statia and nowhere else in the Caribbean. Of course, they’re not easy to find and it is also believed that if you find one, you will always return to St Eustatius.
Later that same afternoon, the wedding ceremony took place at the Old Dutch Church, an incredibly photogenic roof-less venue. After Marlies and Sybolt were pronounced husband and wife, we all walked to the nearby fortress for the respective cake cutting and champagne toast. There, a pleasant surprise was awaiting the happy couple: the reporter that had interviewed them earlier showed up to give blue beads as presents to them!
The blue beads finally found Marlies and Sybolt…just like love found them, when they were not looking for it! What a great keepsake and metaphorical way to commemorate their love story! Wait a minute, that also means they will go back to Statia again and again...and I may just tag along! I wonder if they were counting on that...
Editor's Note (4/21/17): Approaching the end of 2015, Marlies and Sybolt moved to Statia to run The Old Gin House...I'm telling you, those blue beads! If you're contemplating the possibility to visit this charming island in the near future, consider staying there or, if you're limited on time, at least stop by for dinner or a cocktail. If you do, say hi to them from me.