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.
Repoussee is a method of embossing a metal sheet (silver, copper, brass) by punching and hammering a design from the back, then polishing it up in front with a chasing hammer, producing a three-dimensional bas-relief surface.
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.
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.
Old Chinese glass beads in a gorgeous red-orange color that were traded in Tibet as “coral,” along with a selection of other colored glass beads.
In Tibetan tradition, pearl symbolizes the coolness of the moon and is said to promote female fertility. Its complement is red coral, which symbolizes the warmth of the sun and is believed to help with menstruation.
The chank shell, also called the Indian Conch is a large gastropod shell found along the coast of India and Pakistan. This shell is sometimes referred to as Sacred Chank because of its importance in both the Hindu and Buddhist . The use of chank shell dates back 4000 years. The entire shell can be adorned with silver repoussee work and used as an altar piece. Other uses for chank shell are beads. These beads can be carved, cut into disk shapes, or long oblong shapes. Chank shell is also used in prayer beads and prayer wheels in Tibet.
Tibetan Gau Charms
A solid sterling silver amulet box (gau) with the kalichakra symbol on the outside.
Inside there is a tiny image of HH the Dalai Lama and a tiny shard of a prayer scarf
1 inch tall solid silver
Tibetans use a lot of coral in thier jewelry, but not everyone is comfortable wearing coral. This stunning Jade bead is colored red and is commonly refered to as ‘Mountain Jade’ or ‘Mountain Coral’ True agate beads with an amazing deep coral color.