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Buddhist Ivory, Turquoise & Coral Rosary Beads
Tibet
18th-19th century

length: 100cm (50cm as worn), weight: 94g

This Buddhist rosary (sin-'phen) comprises spherical ivory beads plus coral and turquoise beads and metal beads, all on a leather strap. The two coral beads
and single turquoise bead  at the bottom centre probably symbolise the Buddhist trinity - the
dharma, the Buddha and the monkhood (sangha).

There are two groups of ten high-grade silver beads which served as counters. These terminate with small box-like silver beads (possibly shaped as stylised
dorges) inset with coral and turquoise cabochons.

Buddhist rosaries evolved from ancient Hindu-Indian
mala prayer beads. In Tibet, they were used by both laymen and monks. They are supposed to comprise
108 beads plus others as counters, although sectarian variants might have as many as 111 beads plus counters.  The main prayer beads were used to count
repetitions of prayers and the counters were used to record multiples of the main beads, so that thousands of repetitions could be counted.

Tibetan rosary beads made of ivory are relatively rare.

The set here is in a very fine, stable and wearable condition. The ivory is smooth and has a beautiful creamy patina from significant age and handling.

References:
Reynolds, V.,
Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.
Sherr Dubin, L.,
The Worldwide History of Beads, Thames & Hudson, 2009.
Untracht, O.,
Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

Provenance: private collection, London.

Inventory no.: 4300 SOLD

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A related Yemen necklace on display in the Islamic Art Museum Malaysia.
(Photographed February 2017.)