Friday, August 14, 2015

Historical Mystery . . . Solved!

Gotta love rummage sales! Recently, I purchased a strand of beads at the local Garibaldi Maritime Museum rummage sale and was absolutely stymied by its purpose. Was this a necklace? Who would have worn it? Why were there extra strands hanging off the sides? What was the purpose of the glassed frame? What kind of beads were these? How old was it? It just made no sense. The museum curator had no idea; the strand had been in the museum attic for years.

I posed this mystery to the Creative Bead Chat Facebook group. All day long, member's comments entertained me, as I hopped from website to website. The key elements that led to the discovery of its purpose were that there were 108 beads - four sections of exactly 27 beads, like a mala or Buddhist prayer beads. 

The first revealing webpage was Here I discovered that my piece is a Chinese Court Necklace. The Court Necklace was part of a uniform that denoted rank and position. The materials, colors, and design were strictly defined by rank and proximity to the Royal Family. 

* Picture from:

Also pictured on this page was a necklace like mine!

After corresponding with an authority from this website, I learned that my necklace is a late 'low rank' court necklace. Because it is in pretty rough shape, there isn't a lot of value in it other than
for 'parts' for someone who is doing a reconstruction... or having a piece of history. Its value for me is in holding a piece of history in my hands, imagining it in use, and just feeling the energy from it. 

I did learn that I should keep the silk cord that connects the beads intact. The silk cord and the connectors are the most valuable parts, and it is not often that the silk tram is found intact. 

Questions still plague me. What is the glassed frame piece? Are the green beads glass? Are the clear beads original? And most of all . . . where did this come from? Who owned it? 

* Update

TodayI took my necklace with me to the Seaside Gem and Mineral Show. Surely someone there could help to identify the beads. I had a wonderful experience with my favorite bead vendors, Karmic Beads and Gems. We all enjoyed the energy of this necklace, and I discovered that the gemstones are amber (or copal), flourite, and quartz. Pretty cool!

A fabulous article about court necklaces was published in this article from the Bead Society of Northern California. Fascinating!

This adventure has been like one of those Antique Roadshow moments. Quite exciting. I never knew these necklaces existed before embarking on this adventure, and I really enjoyed connecting with cool people that love beads as much as I do. Such a fun time!


  1. What a great find and fun adventure researching it.

    1. Hi, Ann. Sorry it took so long to notice your comment. Yes, this truly was an amazing adventure. Someone asked if I planned to cut the necklace apart to use in my jewelry. Never!! If this thing survived all of those years intact, I owe it to its former owner to keep it, and its history, intact. I will simply treasure it!