You may already know a lot about gemstones and beads, but we’re sure you’d be interested to learn much more! So, we’ve gathered here a few indigenous and alluring Tibetan beads, fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, and more. We’d also let you in on some trivia that you might find helpful in your bead-selecting quest. Hopefully, you’d find them valuable and fascinating. Let’s go right in.
Gemstones and beads are essential elements in crafting the right accessories and jewellery that you might fancy. In Tibetan communities, these ornaments hold a considerable part of their culture. Take a peek at the popular Tibetan beads that might pique your interest for your next jewellery making project.
Prayer beads (Mala and Guru)
For many years, religious practitioners have used prayer beads to perform meditation and recite prayers. In Tibet, mala beads are the equivalent of traditional prayer beads.
“Mala” is a Sanskrit word that means “garland,” a wreath of flowers and leaves worn over the head or around the neck. There are three kinds of Mala beads with different lengths. There are 18, 21, 27 beads, and one Guru bead for bracelets, while for necklaces, there are 54, 108, plus 1 Guru bead.
Each Mala bead type is designed to help a devotee perform and complete a meditation successfully. Additionally, it also assists in prayers and in making offerings to various statues of deities and shrines.
Although Mala beads are typically dried seeds, there are also precious and semi-precious stone variants like turquoise and coral, which are the signature stones of Tibet. If you ever can visit the country, you would see that most Tibetan jewellery accent pieces are coral or turquoise inlays.
The Guru bead is noticeably more prominent than the prayer beads, typically around 6 to 8mm. Aptly called the Guru bead, it symbolizes “The Guru” who gave his student a mantra. It’s a gesture that paid homage to the student-guru relationship.
Inlay beads are designed and created in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Inlaid jewellery involves a technique in which various materials are embedded into a piece, in this case, a bead.
The inlaid materials are levelled with the base material’s surface, like a gemstone or metal, resulting in a decorative surface design. It could be a colourful, playful contrast, all the way up to a sophisticated, sedate, classy look.
Tibetan culture is rich with inlaid beads combining semi-precious stones, like coral or turquoise, embedded with brass on a base of refined clay. You would see sterling silver, iron, and cast metal used as inlay materials from other parts of the globe.
It’s a no-brainer-- this type is a combination of two cones put together as one-- but slightly flattened. You can compare it to miniature pyramids to add depth to your masterpiece!
This style is also known as “glass crystals,” a classier term befitting such beautiful pieces of glass ornaments. Tibetan versions are done in brass, often enhanced with an inlay of a semi-precious stone. The result: a study of perfection, contrast, and impeccable taste. Brass is solid, shines like gold, giving off almost a neutral colour. It perfectly intensifies both the bolder and subtler colourations of most semi-precious gemstones.
The name says it all! This bead type has a positive visual solid impact due to its bulk and substance. A clear advantage is the smooth surface, which makes the beads stay in place when pieced together.
As an option, the saucer beads are made of agate resin, white metal, and brass. As a sustainable way of creating these beads, there are also recycled versions of the saucer beads to help lessen the carbon footprint.
The most significant advantage of round beads is that they can be made of almost any material. Plastic, wood, and glass are just three of them. It only takes piercing a hole right through its centre, on opposite sides. Then a string or wire is inserted through several pieces. Finish it off by attaching the clasps at each end. And there you go, an essential and beautiful necklace.
Since the round bead is a simple shape, many design possibilities, experimentations, and out-of-the-box thinking can transform round beads into wearable works of art. Whether the medium or material is just recycled stuff or a prized gemstone, the result should be a piece of art anyone would want to wear.
There’s something so liberating and fulfilling when we take inspiration from nature as they make an artistic vision a reality. It’s more like a “going back to the basics” kind of thing.
Take a long look at the seeds from plants and trees you can get your hands on. View them through a magnifying glass if necessary. You’d see its beauty and uniqueness. That’s why seeds from plants and trees have been used as beads, because of their rareness that only nature can create.
This category includes the Miyuki, Bodhi, and Lotus beads. The Bodhi tree, a type of Fig tree, is the tree that Buddha meditated on for years. It is the source of Bodhi seeds. These seeds are used as prayer beads for the Bodhi bead necklace. Bodhi means “enlightened.” The beads’ spiritual and historical significance, paired with their inherent durability and rustic aesthetic appeal, make them ideal as prayer beads. Bodhi beads may be expensive, and the price will be based on how aged they are.
The Dzi bead is one of the beads that are part of Tibetan culture's bountiful “treasures”. They are stones mostly made of agate. The most highly prized Dzi beads, though, are the genuine ones. They are natural agate and antique and have existed since ancient times. Heirlooms of some Tibetan families include genuine Dzi beads, treasured both for their sentimental and economic values.
Apart from other stones and beads, Dzi beads have interesting ivory white markings set off by the black or dark brown colour. Among the markings or patterns, one could spot graphic representations, or symbols, of the human “eye.”
Genuine, natural Dzi beads are very rare, valuable, and so command a high price. Because of that, artificial Dzi agate beads have been made, with variations and enhancements inspired by the original to satisfy market demand, as not all can afford the price or even want to buy the original ones for various reasons. There are possibilities for creating more varieties, more distinctive designs, and more innovations for this bead type.
There are many amazing things to share about Tibetan culture that would exhilarate us in several ways if we allow ourselves to dig deeper into its areas. These colourful and meaningful ornaments hold such a massive part in the Tibetan lifestyle that we’re glad to share with you. Having read this piece, we hope it inspires you to explore the fantastic possibilities when you try out different materials that hold a significant part of the Tibetan's social history.