|Title||Tibetan Bone Mala Buddhist Prayer Beads|
|Other Names||Mock coral|
|Type of Object||bovine bone|
|Made In||Tibet or Nepal by Tibetan refugees|
|Approximate Age||20th century|
|Overall Condition||Very good|
|Damage/Repair||Some oxidation and dents; see pictures for detail.|
|Bead Size||9-10 mm diameter. 2mm hole. See picture with penny for size comparison.|
|Strand Length||28 inches|
Picture is an example, yours will be similar.
Additional information: In Buddhist tradition, strands of prayer beads or “malas” are used for meditation, with the purpose of driving away evil and obtaining peace. They are worn wrapped around the left wrist or around the neck. During meditation, their user repeats a particular mantra again and again, counting beads as he or she goes. Extra beads for recording tens and hundreds of recitations are included on tassels at the end of each strand. True malas contain exactly 108 beads. As a multiple of 9 and 12, this was an auspicious number, referring to the 9 planets and the 12 houses of the zodiac.
In Tibet, turquoise is surpassed in value only by gold. The most sought-after stones are a deep blue and must be imported from Iran, while Tibetan turquoise is typically greener in color and criss-crossed with dark veins. Turquoise has many traditional uses, which range from protecting its wearer against nightmares to being offered as ransom to demons! In fact, turquoise is so prized by Tibetans that they use the term to describe anything precious or possessing otherworldly qualities.
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, 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