Additional information: Tibetan Ghau, Gao or Gaus were used to carry sacred relics, magical charms and medicinal herbs, and acted as portable shrines used for protection when traveling. They were particularly potent in repelling attacks from nature spirits which were believed to become angry when their special element (water, earth, etc.) was disturbed. Ghau would be taken to the high Lama at the monastery every full moon, to be filled with a new prayer.
Perched on a plateau in the Himalayas 16,000 feet above sea level, Tibet at first glance appears to be a remote country overshadowed by its much larger neighbors--India to the West and China to the East. In fact, Tibet has long been a cultural hub and is known worldwide for its astonishing jewelry. Historically, red coral from the Mediterranean, deep blue turquoise from Iran and pearls and conch shells from the Indian Ocean were imported to supplement native amber, green turquoise, agates and precious metals. Using these materials, Tibetan silversmiths and metalworkers produced intricately worked jewelry for decorative and religious purposes. These artists would be commissioned by rich patrons, who would offer them lodging and food while the desired piece was being finished.
Today many of the painstaking methods of creating jewelry by hand have given way to semi-automated processes, and plastics and resins are used side-by-side with traditional materials. Tibetans have none of our snobbery when it comes to materials—extremely expensive pieces with sterling silver are often accompanied by resins and plastics! Having taken all of these changes in its stride, Tibet continues to provide the world with gifted jewelers and breathtaking jewelry.
We began carrying Tibetan pieces because they make exquisite beads and jewelry, and also because we are passionately committed to a Free Tibet. Almost all of our things come from a Tibetan family which lives in the United States, with relatives who are refugees in Nepal as well as in Tibet. It is a woman-owned company, which not only employs many family members in the U.S. but also provides jobs for more than 90 Tibetan refugees in Nepal. I buy about twice a year, and each buy is HUGE.
My friend's house and warehouse have Tibetan prayer flags in the courtyard. I always have dozens of cups of tea, and one traditional Tibetan tea with butter and salt. Their living room is full of Tibetan art, Buddhas draped in white silk scarves, ghau prayer boxes with pictures of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan Flag. Your purchase supports good people, in at least three countries.
Recommended reading: Jewellery of Tibet and the Himalayas
by John Clarke
To see other examples of Ethnic jewelry from around the world please see A WORLD OF NECKLACES (Leurquin), AFRICA ADORNED (Fisher), JEWELS FROM ELSEWHERE (Maggi,Melesi, Pensotti) and ETHNIC JEWELRY (van der Star Collection) and THE SPLENDOR of ETHNIC JEWELRY (Borel).