Culture

The Dzi Beads, ancient Tibetan amulets of uncertain origin

Popularly known as tibetan stones, Dzi are small stone beads worn on necklaces and bracelets as charms or talismans. Since they first appeared in the Tibetan region around 2000 BC, they spread throughout Asia and are currently used throughout the world.

Traditional Tibetan medicine used powder from these stones, so many of the oldest ones show scratches and small extraction marks from the process.

There are countless of these stones, but the most appreciated are, obviously, the oldest, which are made of natural agate. Many have entered the antiquities trade and can be found on platforms such as Catawiki, which auctions archaeological objects online certifying their authenticity.

Dzi bead / Catawiki photo

The source of origin of these agates remains a mystery. They are believed to have been introduced into Tibet between 2000 and 1000 BC by Tibetan soldiers returning from Persia or ancient Tajikistan after participating in raids.

The methods for decorating the stones with lines and drawings are also unknown, although it is believed that they may have included a treatment with vegetable sugars and heat, protecting some areas with wax, grease, or similar substances.

Buddha’s eye / photo Catawiki

All of them usually have holes, made before applying the decoration, and have a tubular or conical shape. But there are also eye-shaped ones, originally created to counteract the evil eye, but which are also usually called buddha eyes.

A probable origin of the beads is the Indus Valley, rich in agate deposits. However, the earliest find of an agate bead decorated with straight lines and eyes was found in an excavation of the Saka culture in Kazakhstan. Also in this case its provenance to indicate a similar origin.

Their abundance is such that Tibetan herders and farmers often found them in the ground, leading to the belief that they formed naturally.

Dzi bead / Catawiki photo

On the market the Dzi beads that have more eyes they can reach values ​​of several thousand dollars/euros. Those with red cinnabar stains, caused by the presence of iron, are especially valuable.

This is why many Tibetans, who possess Dzi beads that have been passed down through the generations, have begun to use reproductions, keeping the real ones safe, to prevent theft or worse.


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