have forever been a part of history, covering
virtually every culture.
Although most beads are used to embellish and
adorn, they also serve a number of other functions,
which covers political events, social circumstances,
religious beliefs, symbolism of curative powers, and
have even been used as currency.
Beads are also made in a huge variety of colors
and designs, and can be made from all types of
materials to include wood, metal, glass, ivory, and
of the ojime beads made from ivory were first carved
in China’s Heibei province. However, during the mid-1980s, ivory was banned at which time
ojime beads were made from boxwood.
These beads are not carved by just anyone, but
actual master carvers who consider this a very
valuable art form.
Many master carvers can create up to five to
ten designs and while some will vary in color, the
density and fine grain are what makes them unique.
For a single ojime bead to be crafted by a
skilled master carver, approximately four to six hours
is required. Once
the carving is complete, the beads are then signed by
the artist, hand polished, and waxed to bring out
their lustrous shine before being sold.
Ojime beads, these first originated in Japan.
The beads are meant to work with the netsuke so
the Japanese people could hang items on a sash from
their kimono. Although
these small beads are beautiful and intricately made,
they had a very distinct purpose for every day life.
Because of the amazing carving of the ojime
beads, they soon became somewhat of a fashion
keep in mind that during the 17th Century
in Japan, pockets were not a part of clothing design.
Therefore, the Japanese people had no way to
carry tobacco, currency, medicines, and other small
personal items. Over
time, the tobacco pouch was created along with a
writing set to keep things together and organized.
The Inro for example was a box with anywhere
from two to seven layers, which were used to store
small objects. To
keep the Inro together, cords made of silk were
braided and then run through the box vertically.
way of maintaining the integrity of the braid, ojime
beads were used.
Then to close off the end of the cord, a small
toggle called the netsuke was placed.
With this design, the Inro could dangle from
the kimono out of the way yet within close reach.
Soon, the beautifully designed ojime bead
became a piece of art expressed by the artist.
With so many different designs, the Japanese
individual could choose the style, color, and design
that best matched his or her personal preference. For
instance, some of the designs included whales, dogs,
monkeys, snakes, crabs, tigers, dogs, dragons, mice,
bats, roosters, owls, and much more.
you can still find authentic ojime beads, today, many
reproductions are also available, which are quite
charming and typically carved from boxwood found in
China, but following the traditions of the Japanese.
The design of the ojime bead consists of a hole
drilled from the top all the way down through the
depending on the design of the bead, there may also be
some holes running lengthwise.
The original and reproduced ojime beads are
indeed amazing, refined pieces of art that are
actually very sophisticated.