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Chinese Carved Lapis Imperial Beads

The Chinese love of the jade stone has a long and well known history… but the story of these carved lapis beads is not as well known.

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[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

During the Qing Dynasty only members of the Imperial family were entitled to use pearls, coral and lapis. The coral came from Italy and the lapis came from Afghanistan, which made them both very rare in China.

The carving of these 38 lapis beads is typical of 18th century treadle work and has the Shou carving on two sides of each bead… so they were carved after they arrived in China and must have been used in a court necklace for a member of the Imperial family.

We understand how the lapis and coral traveled to China because the trade routes are well documented …but how the Imperial beads traveled to the US is still a mystery.

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And of course …after I found these beads I had to buy the lapis earrings so that the beads wouldn’t feel lonely!

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