Multiple-Strand Dark Blue Glass Bead Necklace
Naga People, India/Burma
length: 63cm, weight: 288g
This very fine Naga necklace comprises 56 separate strands of tiny dark-blue glass beads, and several small orange and yellow beads at each strand’s ends. Each bead has a fine patina – it is clear that the necklace was worn and much used. The threading of each strand is incorporated into a woven panel of natural fibre at each end. The necklace is closed with a button mechanism clap, the button comprises an Indian colonial coin dated 1929.
Such necklaces that are thick with so many strands typically were worn by women; men wore sparser necklaces.
The beads used in this and related necklaces most probably originated in India. Larger beads often were trade beads from Venice, France and China.
Similar examples are illustrated in Barbier (1984, p. 35), Jacobs (1990, p. 317), and Shilu (2003, p. 13).
The Naga are a tribal group concentrated in the border areas of north-eastern India and eastern Burma. They were attracted to rare goods that could be bartered from outside their region. Beaded necklaces were very popular as a show of finery but also as a portable means of displaying and carrying wealth. The components that went into making necklaces were regarded as currency items themselves. Beads and necklaces were accumulated as heirlooms and were passed as dowries.
The example here is in excellent, wearable condition. There are no apparent losses, and yet the beads of each strand have a fine patina. The beads are dark blue
en masse, but when held up to the light, the translucent nature and clear blue colour of the beads becomes more apparent.
Barbier, J. P., Art of Nagaland: The Barbier-Müller Collection, Geneva, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984.
The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India, Thames & Hudson, 1990.
The Naga of Burma: Their Festivals, Customs and Way of Life, Orchid Press, 2005.
Naga Tribal Adornment: Signatures of Status and Self, The Bead Museum, Washington, 2003.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2612