Burma is a land blessed with beautiful people, lands and sights. It seems like when the Earth was created all of nature’s abundance has been funnelled in this land of the Thousand Pagodas.
Pumtek Beads, Precious Heirlooms
Hundreds and thousands of years of forming by the natural elements and skilled human hands have made the Pumtek beads a work of intriguingly beautiful work of art.
The Pumtek beads are more than just a fashion item as they are much sought after sometimes staying with families for countless generations as precious heirlooms. This can often make it difficult to predict the exact age of some of these wonderful remnants of a bygone age and not surprisingly any that do manage to be persuaded out of the country suddenly become much more valuable and highly collectable around the world.
The name Pumtek comes from the descendants of the ancient tribe of the Kiang. Their ways of live revolved around polytheism and beads were collected and nurtured to be offerings or used for worship.
The beads are fossilized wood that has taken on a petrified appearance over thousands of years of natural development and can look and feel like stone. The different types of wood give each bead a beautifully natural look with their distinctive base colours of their mother tree.
Natural weathering and use by many wearers over the many years let each bead take on extra coloration and texture properties that increase its charm and appeal. By the time these beads have been passed through the countless hands of families through their ancestry the beads can take on their own personality and reverence. When extra decorative paint is added and worn in the effect is beautiful and highly sought after by westerners.
The beads come from five different types of fossilized wood and the hard wood variety is exclusively from central Burma such as the Natogyi outskirts at Pagan and Kachin State and there have been some found in the Northern regions at the Myitkyina area. The iconic Irrawaddy River has been known to give up Palm wood stone fossils at its banks together with reports of Opalized wood stone fossils also known. There are similar versions of these beads in Western China and the nearer areas of India.
The Kiang Tribe have been the nomadic section of the Chin people and they have been recognized on their travels by their beads. The beads worn as necklaces were kept for their spiritualistic values as natural amulets and could be used to ask good fortune from the God of Nature. With so much history and connections with the spirits it is easy to see why they carry their charm and meaning today and are still used as healing tools and offerings to Buddha.
Burmese Jade, Heaven’s Stone
Jade or Burmese Jadeite as it is correctly known is much revered throughout Asia as a symbol of good luck and health and for thousands of years its pearly qualities are also celebrated as a resistance to ward off evil spirits.
Jade precious stones are normally thought of as an emblem of ancient China but in truth nearly all Jade comes from Burma. The Imperial Green jadeite is only found in the northern Burmese region of Kachin State. The area of Kyaukseinmyo is known as “Jade Land”.
The Heavens Stone is so sought after particularly in China it is exceeded in value only by diamonds. The Chinese call Jade “Yu” and it is one of the oldest words in their vocabulary and the pictograph can be dated as far back as 295 BC.
These captivating green gems are a symbol of knowledge and righteousness as praised by Confucius and it is revered as the terrestrial bridge spanning the distance between heaven and hell. It has been used to produce jewellery it has been used for ornaments, tools and even weapons.
Whereas diamonds are relatively new to international markets the Chinese have incorporated this mesmerising stone into their culture for nearly 5,000 years and it has helped to form a strong bond between the two ancient civilizations since antiquity.
There is a huge export direct to Hong Kong and the Mandalay Jade market is a sight to behold. There are all manner of shades of green available and from the smallest trinkets to long elaborate necklaces.
No surprise prices vary accordingly but the most sought after jade is the purest emerald green shades and these can be haggled for feverishly. The Bogyoke Market in Yangon has at least 60 shops all selling wonderful jade items.
One tip for the novice buyer is that just like real crystal when you tap it you should hear a lasting vibration. There is a strong belief that this icon of brilliant green should appear vibrant and transparent and this suggests that there is plenty of good fortune ahead. If the jade becomes dull and lack lustre then it is said that bad luck will be inevitable.
Whatever the beliefs or customs surrounding this fascinating gem, the majestic natural green hues of Jade are bound to keep mankind fascinated with this icon of nature for thousands of years to come.