Sunday, August 16, 2009
Bead adventures in Thailand (6) - the story of the enormous ivory beads unfolds
I made a final trip to the ivory beads before leaving Thailand yesterday. I asked to hold them this time and looked much more closely at how the necklace was strung. After my visit I tried to sketch the necklace to help with my memory of it given photographs are not possible. Looking past its seven enormous ivory beads I could see this time that they are separated not only by lovely chinese patterned silver bead caps but also by a small ivory disk. The stunning tennis ball sized central bead has a fascinating salmon pink stripe running through it and is flanked each side by two almost white chinese jade beads (about 8 mm) on silver handmade dangles. Just near the necklace hook are two lovely silver flower beads inlaid with lapis and coral and two more gourd shaped ivory beads known as (fodouda or buddha head beads). These beads are found in contempoary mala or prayer beads (see image - the apricot bead is the fadouda beads). The enormous ivory beads are strung on a woven silver silk rope that is strong enough to carry their two kilogram weight and finished with a silver hook and eye. Can you imagine wearing a necklace of that weight?
In my second visit a little more of its story unfolded. The necklace was apparently made in the late 19th century somewhere between China and Burma but it's likely that the enormous ivory beads are much older. I was told it may have been a warrior's necklace as wearing a necklace of such weight was a symbol of the wearer's strength. Alternatively, I was told it could have been worn in the temple by monks as part of their meditation rituals. So, still no definitive story of the necklace but that second visit has given me hints that I'll use for Google searching. I'll also email the shop owner to see if he can tell me more than his shop assistant could. Apparently,
it came to the shop via the shop owner's private collection. He is apparently an ex-architect who established the shop over 19 years ago and he occasionally places pieces from his private collection in the shop for sale. This is one such piece. So, how did the owner come to own the beads and what does he know of their story? I have also emailed the Bead Museum to see if they might know something - any suggestions about how to track its story further.