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The Mandarin Court Necklace

The Mandarin Court Necklace is the goal of the serious collector. Legend has it that the Court necklace was patterned after a mala (a string of Tibetan prayer beads) that were given to Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) as a gift from the Dalai Lama.

1-790581The beads are precious and semiprecious stones, most of them elaborately carved. Enameled metal and carved seeds or wood were also used. Choice of stone was predetermined by rank and only the emperor and his family were permitted to wear eastern pearls, coral, lapis and tourmaline….and later the newly discovered Burma jadeite. Officials of lower rank were permitted other materials such as carved seeds and nuts. These necklaces appeared in court from 1644-1911.

2-790632 The necklace is 108 matched beads divided into four sections by three larger(25-30mm)beads (fouou or head bead) and one other large bead in a gourd shape (fodouda or Buddha head) that hung down the back to act as a counterweight. The head bead leads to a flat woven tape then a large pendant and finally a gemstone drop. Three additional strings of 10 smaller beads terminate in gemstone drops with enameled silver caps. The stone beads are sometimes heavily carved, many reticulated and some actually hollowed out. A single bead in stone could take a master carver a week to produce.

3-735104 It is not uncommon to find a single 18th or 19thc bead as the centerpiece in a necklace constructed by a 20thc jewelry designer.

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One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    This is an exceptional court necklace or (Chao zhu), I have one made of Peking glass beads. Toward the end of the Qing Dynasty a court necklace of this quality was so exspensive that the glass necklaces became popular with many court officals.This is very beautiful! David

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