For Tibetans, jewelry plays an important, traditional role in dress, spirituality, and life. Under the stylish design, Tibetan jewelry implies the archaized style and a unique charm and appeal of art, and they can not be replaced by any other ethnic style jewelry.
Handmade Tibetan Jewelry reflects rich Tibetan ethnic cultural connotation and bold styling. In contrast with India, where a piece of jewelry is valued for the preciousness of the metals and gems that go into making it, Tibetans value their jewelry based on its color, size and symbolism.
Tibetan jewelry has a rustic, almost unfinished look to it. In contrast with the perfectly symmetrical and flawless appearance of, say Italian silver jewelry, Tibetan silver pieces are individually made in a process that usually involves hammering and chiseling. No one will ever confuse Tibetan jewelry as machine mass produced because of its simple beauty! Tibetan jewelry, including silver and gold jewelry, also tends to be much larger in size than the jewelry made in most other countries and regions.
As for materials, Tibetan jewelry is usually made of copper or silver, although gold jewelry is also produced. Tibetan jewelry also makes extensive use of gemstones. Turquoise and coral are their favorites, but rubies, sapphires, agates, coral, amber, copal, carnelian, garnet, lapis lazuli, amethyst, and jade are also used. Yak bone is also a popular material for jewelry-making.
Silver and Gold Work Traditions in Tibet
Documents in China from the 7th Century were written in praise of Tibetan silversmiths and goldsmiths, which were believed to be one of the wonders of the medieval world. It is not clear where these skills came from or whether they originated from within the Tibetan region. It is known that Tibet has long been subjected to influences from foreigners. It was a stop on the famed Silk Routes that ran from the Mediterranean to China. Trading is known to have taken place between Tibet and such nations as Turkey, Iran, India, China, and all regions of Central Asia. It is possible that silver and gold workers in Tibet had associations with metal workers from other regions.
The Tibetans have been skilled silversmiths for many hundreds of years. Silver containers have been found in temples that date back to 600 AD. Ancient metal work exhibiting advanced skills have been also uncovered, usually in the form of Buddhist sculptures.
Gold was thought to have restorative qualities in addition to increasing longevity and dispelling demons. In Tibet, gold jewelry has always been rare, a luxury limited to the rich and the powerful.
Gold jewelry reflects not only the personal wealth of the owners, but also social and political status. It also reflects the traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Gems and jewelry often serve as a metaphor for the ideals of faith, and Himalayan deities were richly adorned with abundant gold jewelry- crowns, earrings, necklaces, armlets, anklets, finger and toe rings.