Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Above: A collection of ancient decorated agates and carnelians with the longevity or net design (lengths approx 15 mm to 20 mm). They are also known as 'Longevity dZi' because the design resembles the shell of a turtle (which is often associated with long life in Asia). Similar decorated beads have been excavated in Taxila and date to around the 3rd century BCE (Beck).

The above beads are not to be confused with the Phum dZi (see image at the bottom of this post) which can also display a net/longevity design but are likely to be much older creations. In fact many Tibetans believe Phum dZi are the oldest of all dZi types. Phum dZi tend to be large fat beads that have a grey to black base colour. They can also display eyes and other unique decorations, which are unlikely to be seen on the smaller bead types shown above.

 Above: An ancient decorated agate (center) 
with the much rarer 'lotus' design

Sometimes these decorated agates can also display a lotus decoration (see bead above). Many Phum dZi (but not all) can be crudely decorated with a more freeform shape (but are generally long or barrel shaped) and with sometimes poorly executed (off center) perforations. They also tend to have a stronger usage patina and often turn up on Tibetan heirloom strands. The above beads are much more common than the Phum dZi and are most certainly of Indian origin, hence the reason Tibetans call them 'Indian' dZi. They tend to be no more than 25 mm in length (usually less than 20 mm) and have a distinct 'tapered oval' shape. The decoration is also more clearly defined than what we see on most Phum dZi. They can appear in both agate and carnelian, whereas the larger Phum dZi is never made from carnelian.


Above: Ancient Phum dZi (32.61 mm x 12 mm)

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