Tibetan jewelry and art is deeply symbolic. It is part of everyday life and is connected with religious beliefs. Tibetans are Buddhist and chanting is an important part of their culture. Ohm or om is a chant recognized by most people but the full popular ancient mantra (sacred word or phrase) of Tibet is om mani padme hum. This mantra is sometimes inscribed on Tibetan jewelry and loosely translated, it means that through practice, it is possible for the impure (unenlightened) to achieve The Jewel in the Lotus; Buddhahood.
Tibetan jewelry is quite beautiful, stylish and simple with vibrant colors. The colors most used are bright red and light-blue. Other colors used are green and yellow. Tibetans value their jewelry based on its color, size and symbolism. Tibetan jewelry, including silver and gold jewelry, also tends to be much larger in size than the jewelry made in most other countries.
Most of the jewelry makers today can be found in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, particularly in the old part of town. Many jewelry makers have been there for centuries, since business remains within the family, the skills passed down through the generations.
|Freak street where the hippies of old used to hang out.
Today you can find small jewelry shops here.
The Tibetans have been skilled silversmiths for many years. In fact, Tibetan silversmiths and goldsmiths were believed to be one of the wonders of the medieval world! Documents uncovered in China from the 7th century praise their skills.
The jewelry is made from the highest-quality silver and often features turquoise, coral and amber gemstones. Tibetans believe that turquoise and coral have healing qualities and that gemstones can provide protection. Most of the semi-precious gems are found in the Himalayas with some of the gems e.g. blue lapis lazuli being imported from Afghanistan.
The silver used in Tibetan jewelry is 92.5 % pure and some Tibetan silver jewelry has a rustic, unfinished look to it. It is handmade using hammers and chisels, which makes it charming and unique.
Tibetan Buddhists can be seen walking around wearing prayer beads, called malas. Malas are prayer beads used for reciting repetitions of prayers or chants called "mantras" and are used during meditation. They have been used for thousands of years in Tibetan, Chinese and Indian Buddhism. Similar beads are used in Christianity. The beads are made from an assortment of semi-precious stones, beads and yak bone.
The Tibetan jewelry style had a major influence on other cultures, particularly those ferocious warriors known as The Mongols.
The Mongol Empire existed for almost 150 years, up until the end of the 14th century, with the Great Mongol Empire being founded by Chinggis Khaan (also spelled Genghis Khan). The Empire included Northern China, Turkestan, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, Caucasus and Iran.
One of Chinggis's grandsons, Kublai Khan, conquered the whole territory of China and became the founder of the Mongol Dynasty in China.
Mongol earrings (right). High grade silver with turquoise and coral. The long life knot at the top is frequent motif in Mongol as well as Tibetan Buddhist designs.
Nowadays, buying jewelry that is handmade in Tibet necessitates prudence. A lot on the commercial market is actually made in Nepal. However, it is possible to make Tibetan-style jewelry using authentic gemstones.
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- First Published: October-19-2011
- Last Updated: July-05-2017
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