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Antique Coral Beads
For hundreds of years coral has been harvested and collected by populations of peoples worldwide. Since the Mediterranean is now protected from coral harvesting, the contemporary coral we are familiar with is more than often dyed in order to mimic the beautiful natural colors of ancient corals. The corals shown below are 100% natural, showing the amazing color diversity in ancient corals that you just can't find in modernly harvested selections.
To view coral strands and pieces currently available for purchase in our online store please click here.
No, there are no coral bearing seas in Tibet, BUT these beads of natural rich red were grown in the Mediterranean, Andaman and China Seas and traveled to the Silk Road, passing through the hands of many different traders on their way, well before Marco Polo traveled in the 13th century(in fact, during his travels through Asia he makes mentions of the coral being used as currency).
All grades and colors of natural coral are celebrated and worn by Tibetan and Napalese peoples.
However, smooth, ox blood colored, unblemished beads are the most desired and command the highest per gram prices. Tibetans believe that coral, other than being an excellent investment, also possesses protective qualities and promotes success in life.
Coral, being a material that was obtained in oceans far away from the Himalayas, was so greatly prized by the Tibetans that they attempted to make use of every piece. Mosaic coral (shown above) is a way of making use of every little scrap of this precious material. Beginning with irregular shapes of coral beads, they filled in the gaps and holes with a wax and pitch mixture called lakh and then inserted pieces of coral in the same shade as the incomplete bead. After extensive polishing and finishing what's left is a beautifully unique composite coral bead. While less expensive than regularly shaped beads, the primitive look of such mosaic coral is in some ways more interesting.
These pieces continue to be treasured. In fact, until recently the Gurung people of Nepal still wore strands of these amazing beads.
Grown in the Mediterranean at least 100 years ago, the pink coral was not considered as desirable as the dark red, but was still traded and sold into North Africa, Arabia and the Near East for centuries.
Another natural colored coral from the Mediterranean, the Straits of Malacca and the Red Sea, it was cut into beads between 1775 and 1925. Referred to as 'white coral' for it's most dominate color, it is not unusual to find beautiful streaks of natural burnt orange throughout the beads. Although Tibetans value the darkest red most highly, all coral is good coral and you will see it included in many of their designs.
These pale coral strands originally came out of the Mediterranean Sea, but were traded into Afghanistan because their particular color was highly desired in the region. These coral beads are as new as 100 years old, but some older beads are mixed in among the strands.
Prices mentioned in Lost Cities' emails, blogs, handouts, websites, etc. are effective the date of publication. They are subject to market conditions and availability and may be modified as necessary at Lost Cities' discretion. Lost Cities Beads 2802 Juan St. #14 San Diego, CA 92110 (619) 692-1114 Monday-Saturday 10am - 6pm Sunday 10am - 5pm Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day Questions, comments? Contact us either by phone during business hours, or email us at email@example.com. Copyright Lost Cities 2009