Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Above: A new six eye dZi bead. (Taiwan 1990s)

Above: A new two eye dZi bead from Taiwan or China. Artificially aged. 33 mm x 11 mm

The above bead is a good example of an artificially aged bead. The body displays a number of digs that have been rounded and polished. This gives the impression of genuine old weathering, worn smooth from centuries of close contact to the body. Also, the decorated lines give a false appearance of ancient corrosion or heat damage. However, the maker has completely neglected the ends and perforations, thus making it easy to recognise the bead as a modern replica.

The ends show the original colour of the stone material (white). The black/grey areas are the artificial base colour. The ends are highly polished and perfectly rounded. The stone at the ends is comparable in quality to many newly created agates coming out of China. Both rounded ends look identical in shape and the holes are central and straight - they are also exactly the same diameter at both ends. The ends show no signs of weathering or any indication that this bead has been strung. In fact the holes still have a sharp edge, which suggests they have been recently drilled. However, it is important to note that smooth edges does not always indicate a bead is ancient. There are many ancient dZi that also show no signs of weathering for a number of reasons, however, the quality of the agate, style of decoration, drilling methods, provenance and other indications should be enough to determine whether it is genuine.

Since I have also seen a large strand of these beads (in Nepal) of comparable quality and size, it also makes it easier to know they are modern replicas of ancient beads. Makers of new dZi tend to make beads that are very similar looking in shape, size, quality of material and style of decoration (see Enijew for example). Therefore if you see many beads that look identical in quality it is likely they are fresh out of the same factory. Ancient dZi that have been worn for generations, often have a very unique usage patina - which is very difficult to fake. It is therefore extremely hard to find ancient dZi that are a perfect match. So if you see a seller on ebay offering beads as 'ancient' and they have a whole store full of very similar looking beads - be careful!

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