The History and Tradition of Jewelry Making in Nepal
Oversized jewelry is often worn by women from Tibet and Nepal. This jewelry, while beautiful, is often rustic, with uneven edges. A closer look will reveal that this jewelry is made, not by a machine, but by hand.
To appreciate the workmanship of Nepalese jewelry, it is important to understand the history of the craft. Many of the jewelry craftsmen in Nepal are actually from Tibet. They fled from Tibet to Nepal when the Chinese took over Tibet in the 1950s. Descendants of these craftsmen continue the Tibetan jewelry-making tradition in Nepal today. Furthermore, many who make this traditional jewelry are women, not men. In both Tibet and Nepal, jewelry is important in dress, spirituality, and life. Tibetan and Nepalese jewelry also protects the wearer like an amulet, and most of the metals and stones are believed to have unique properties.
Nepalese jewelry is commonly made from copper or silver, but it can also be made from gold. Most pieces of Nepal jewelry are quite heavy, due to the quantities of metal used to make each piece. This jewelry is often sold by the gram.
Turquoise and coral are the most common stones used in Nepalese jewelry. Turquoise stands for the sky and the sea. Other stones common in Nepal jewelry include lapis lazuli, tiger eye, garnet, and agate. Many bracelets and necklaces are also made from yak bone.
Many piece of Nepalese jewelry are actually representations of Sanskrit words. These words carry particular meaning for the wearer of the jewelry. The symbol for Om is often incorporated into jewelry. Om is the sound the universe makes as the planets travel through space. This sound has relaxing and healing properties. Wearing this symbol reminds the wearer of the peace that can be found by keeping harmony with Om.
The most common mantra on Tibetan and Nepalese jewelry is the mantra, om mani padme hum. This mantra literally means, hail to the jewel in the lotus. The eight auspicious symbols are also popular symbols in Buddhist jewelry from Nepal. The ten-fold powerful mantra symbol (the Kalachakra mantra symbol) is also popular. Bracelets carved from three metals are said to have healing properties.
Dzi beads, or God beads are a very important part of Buddhist jewelry. Use of these beads can be traced back to 1000 B.C. These beads come in different shapes and sizes, each one capable of serving a different spiritual function. Dzi beads have the power of amulet, which means they carry sacred powers. Some are used to protect the wearer from evil spirits. Others protect against natural disaster, or increase energy levels. Some will bring good reputation and some promote decency.