Beads and Jewelry have remained an important piece of ornament since the early human civilizations. They are culturally significant and denote the social status of the person wearing it. Nepal has a long history of designing and making these artistic items. You can find many beads and jewelry shops in the ancient parts of Kathmandu.
There are hundreds of variants of beads and jewelry with a wide price range. The most common ornament among the local Nepalese women is the glass beads known as “Potay”. These are traditional necklaces and are quite beautiful. These “Potays” or necklaces made with red or green glass beads symbolize their marital status.
Moreover, these glass beads are now used to make jewelry like necklaces, bangles, earrings, hairpins, and others. Nowadays, young unmarried women also wear these traditional glass beads. These trendy jewelry are popular among foreigners and tourists as well.
Furthermore, the ethnic Newar community in Kathmandu are generally involved in the making of the jewelry. Newar artisans have dwelled in various art forms for centuries that also include jewelry making with semi-precious stones. The art form is also primarily influenced by Tibetan culture.
Besides that, there is a large population of Nepalese Muslims making these portrays as well. There are beautifully engraved Malas, Necklaces, Zen bracelets in semi-precious stones, wood or seeds. Nepali jewels are strongly linked to religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism. Read further to know about the beads and jewelry in Kathmandu in detail.
History of Beads and Jewellery in Kathmandu and Nepal
Nepal and Tibet have centuries-old commercial ties. This strong tie allowed Nepalese artisans to import various precious stones, including turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, and others. Newar artists were already quite fluent in wood, pearls, and metal artistry and sculpture.
Hundreds of Nepalese artistry migrated to Tibet to work in the different monasteries and other monuments around the nineteenth century. They also took the Nepalese jewelry to Tibet. In Tibet, the jewelry soon became a symbol of wealth and class. However, the unstable political climate in Tibet forced those artists to return to Kathmandu and start their business in Nepal again.
In Nepal, these beads became widely popular among women and got directly linked to a woman’s status. The perception is still the same even in the modern world. These necklaces signify the marital status of marriage or spiritual symbolism. Many women wear gold pendants on their necklaces on special occasions to demonstrate their family wealth. Red, Green, and Yellow are the primary colors used in the ornaments.
What Are the Materials Used in Making the Beads and Jewelry?
Nepalese jewelry usually consists of brass, silver, copper. You can also find the 22 carats gold in some jewelry. Turquoise and coral were extensively used in the past. Many semi-precious stones including rubies and sapphire generally come from Sri Lanka and Burma.
Amethyst, jade, amber, garnet, agate, lapis lazuli, opal, and carnelian and other semi-precious stones get imported from India. Nepalese jewelry also consists of Yak bone, wood beads and natural seeds as a material. The most popular bead material are stone, plastic, glass, yak bone, and seeds.
Beads Vs High-end Jewellery in Kathmandu
There are differences between Beads and high-end jewelry. The silver, gold, and diamond jewelry are the High-end jewelry in Kathmandu. Beads get made up of semi-precious or non-precious stones.
The bead or stone’s value is not that high, but the artistry used in making the beads into jewelry is what makes them expensive. Moreover, the exquisite pieces of art use gold, silver, and beads as their material.
Hidden Meaning Behind the Beads
Beads are also worn explicitly in the context of religion and culture. Different birthstones based on the horoscopes of the person play a vital role in making these beads. Hence, these gemstones and beads have a special meaning of their own.
Moreover, these gemstones or birthstone helps with a specific problem. The silver or gold jewelry has no such exact meaning. Hence, learning about the exact meaning and the design of the beads is quite essential.
Popular Types of Beads and Jewellery in Kathmandu
There are various types of jewelry, including a necklace, wrist bracelet, pendant, earrings, and ankle bracelet in Nepal. They are all made by hand, but most of the beads get exported from various countries, including India, China, Sri Lanks, Burma, and Pakistan. The many popular types of Beads and Jewellery in Kathmandu are as follows:
Bodhi Seeds Beads
The Bodhi seed beads are the incredible unpolished natural seeds that are quite popular among Buddhists tourists from various countries. Ever since the Dalai Lama mentioned it in his speech, the demand for these beads has increased by ten folds.
Furthermore, Bodhi means “enlightened” in Sanskrit. According to mythologies, Prince Siddhartha Gautam (Lord Buddha) meditated under the Bodhi tree before gaining enlightenment. Hence, these bodhi seeds have great cultural and religious significance. You can also get custom designed bodhi seed beads in the market.
Tiger Eye Stone Beads
Tiger eye beads are generally custom added to any piece of jewelry of your choice. They are widely known as Tiger eye stone beads because of the golden yellow and dark streaks in the crystal-like stones. Locals believe that these particular beads promote balance and harmony and also release your anxiety or fear.
Rudraksha Seeds (Lord Shiva’s Teardrop)
Rudraksha seeds are another bead of great religious importance. These are quite popular among Hindu devotees. It is also known as “Shiva’s teardrop” and are quite expensive due to their rarity.
According to mythologies, these incredible natural Bodhi seeds are the tears of Lord Shiva. The slits or corners of the Rudraksha define the rarity and subsequently, the price of the beads. You can find five slits Rudraksha with ease whereas the one slit and the and 28 slits Rudraksha found in Pashupatinath are quite expensive.
The onyx beads are highly polished and jet black in color. Locals believe that black onyx is a “separator” and takes away the person’s sorrow or grief. You might find other color variants of the Onyx beads as well but the pure black form is generally considered the best one.
Blue Lapis are the most expensive beads found in Nepal. These beads denote royalty, wisdom, honor, and truth. The beautiful blue color also makes it one of the prettiest beads available in Nepal. You can get custom designs on these Blue Lapis.
Yak Bone Jewelry
Yak bone jewelry, including necklaces, keyrings, and bracelets, are quite popular among Nepalese. Although the name refers to the bone of the Yak, some jewelry also uses the bone of a buffalo. These unique designs are quite famous among the locals.
Nepalese Designed Beads
The Nepali designed beads are generally made up of the red and turquoise/green vajra beads. These Nepali beads are largely inspired by the Tibetan style pendants made of ruby dust, emerald dust, and brass.
Moreover, you can get your own custom made Vajra Beads designs jewelry from various parts in Kathmandu. There is a wide variety of stones, bones, metals and other beads to have your unique designs.
Essential Tips While Buying the Beads and Jewellery in Kathmandu
Some of the essential tips you need to consider before buying the beads and jewelry in Kathmandu are as follows:
Avoid Plastic Beads
You should avoid plastic beads as they are of low quality and get imported from China. The designs are not approved, and the paints wear off quickly in just a few months of use.
Don’t Shower with Bone Carved Jewelry
You should not shower with jewelry, especially the bone carved one. The colors on these wash off quite quickly when exposed to water for a long time.
Be Careful with Fake Gemstones
There are many fake gemstones, so you should be careful while buying. The semi-precious stones are of excellent quality, and only a professional bread maker can differentiate the real one with the fake one. Hence, you should only purchase the ones that get certified by its maker.
Where to Buy Beads and Jewellery in Kathmandu?
There are many such beads and jewelry shops in and around the Kathmandu valley. The tiny alleyways of Indra Chowk in the Basantapur Durbar Square are one of the best places to find yourself exceptional jewelry. There you can find an extensive and colorful market of beads following a small alley.
You can find tiny stalls, holding rows of beads and hidden between the temples. This unique skill of joining small beads to form a necklace gets passed down from one generation to the next. However, these traditions are slowly dying as not many youngsters follow this traditional occupation.
Besides that, there are also many such markets in the Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square area. You can find much high-end jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones in the shops around these Durbar Squares and the tourist hub of Thamel in Kathmandu.
The Final Say
Beads and Jewelry is an important aspect of Nepalese culture and tradition. You can find many beads and jewelry shops in and around the ancient alleys of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur.
Moreover, ethnic Newar artists make jewelry with semi-precious stones. These gemstones include turquoise, coral, rubies, sapphire, amethyst, jade, amber, garnet, agate, lapis lazuli, opal, carnelian, and others.
Furthermore, a large community of Nepalese Muslims is also involved in bead making as well. These beads also have religious (Buddhism and Hinduism) as well as spiritual significance. Overall, the beads and jewelry in Kathmandu is a prime attraction for tourists and locals alike.
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