Turquoise is the most common Tibetan accessory jewelry along with cloudy amber and Tibetan silver. Turquoise has some special meanings. It is considered as the embodiment of deity, and carries auspiciousness in Tibetan folk culture. Almost every Tibetan owns a turquoise jewelry.
The history of wearing turquoise can be dated back to the ancient times. It is believed that the turquoise was firstly used as tributes on the altars, presents for lamas of respectable position, and on the royal crown of Nyatri Tsanpo, the first king of ancient Tibet in the 2nd century B.C.
The turquoise also has derived many legends. It is believed that wearing a turquoise ring can protect travelers from dangers during a trip, and dreaming of turquoise omens the beginning of auspiciousness and a new chapter of life. It also goes that if someone’s turquoise turns into green from blue, it is the sign of liver diseases, which is said to reflect turquoise’s function of attracting jaundice from human’s body.
Almost all the jewelries in Tibet may have turquoise, which has become a typical feature of Tibetan styled jewelries and accessories. Apart from the necklaces, the turquoise is also used in daily hair accessories, amulets, rings and earrings, and bracelets.
Turquoise necklace is a must-have for most Tibetan people, which is believed to store the soul of the owner. According to legend and custom, no one is allowed to throw a turquoise necklace into the river, since his/her soul will leave his/her body due to such behavior.
Tibetan brides often receive a turquoise necklace as a wedding present from their parents. Most Tibetan women prefer necklaces made up by strings of turquoise beads with other treasures such as coral, amber, pearl and jadeite. Those turquoise necklaces for men are much simpler and often consist of several turquoise beads and coral.
Turquoise Hair Accessory
Nomad Tibetan women tend to comb their hair into 108 petals and decorate them with turquoise and coral. A string of turquoise beads is also an essential hair accessory for married woman in southern Tibet, since it represents the wife’s wishes of longevity for her husband. In these areas, not wearing any turquoise in hair is regarded as a disrespect of the woman’s husband.
Amulet is an important treasure for Tibetans, often used for keeping religious documentations, pieces of clothes from high ranking lamas, or mini-sized religious sculptures. Most of the containers are delicately carved golden or sliver boxes decorated with turquoise. The decoration might be a single turquoise placed in the middle, or a unique arrangement of many turquoises along with rutiles and emeralds.
Turquoise Ring and Earring
It is common to mount turquoise on rings made of gold, sliver, bronze or white copper. Men prefer saddle-like rings that are usually very large, while women prefer smaller ones.
Earring is another unisex accessory widely welcomed by Tibetans. Women usually wear earrings in pairs while men only wear one on the left ear. In the past, nobilities in Lhasa often wore super-sized earring made of gold, turquoise and pearl, which could make the common people feel daunting.
“Ear shield” is another kind of ear accessory worn by women in central Tibet only on some ceremonious occasions. The “ear shield”, covered by turquoise, is placed in front of the ears and fixed in the hair.