Gold & Turquoise Official’s Pendant (Sochi) Lhasa, Tibet 19th century
length: 11.2cm, weight: 11g
This thin, pencil-like ear ornament known as a sochi is made from twisted gold and pearled wire, gold sheet, a single lead bead to emulate a pearl, turquoise pieces, and a long turquoise-coloured glass drop.
Such pendants were worn from the left ear as a badge of office by Tibetan government ministers and officials.
The gilded hoop at the top of the pendant fitted through the pierced ear but the weight of the pendant usually was supported by a thin strip of silk textile that was attached to the hoop and which fitted over the ear.
The presence of the lead bead is a mystery. Usually these ear pendants included a baroque pearl instead, however this one appears to have been made with the bead instead; it does not seem to be a later replacement.
See Casey Singer (1996, p. 100-1), Clarke (2004, p. 65), Reynolds (1978, p. 46) and Borel (1994, p. 169) for related examples.
The example here is for a government official, but generally all Tibetans wore at least one earring of one type or another - Borel relates a Tibetan superstition that anyone wears no earring is likely to be reincarnated as a donkey.
The ear pendant is in a fine condition.
References: Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994. Casey Singer, J., Gold Jewelry from Tibet and Nepal, Thames & Hudson, 1996. Clarke, J., Jewellery of Tibet and the Himalayas, V&A Publications, 2004. Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.