Enquiry about object: 5204

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Fine Naga Trade Bead, Shell & Bone Necklace or Girdle

Naga People, Eastern India/Western Burma
19th century

length: 75cm, width: 12.5cm



UK art market

This particularly fine-quality beaded belt or girdle would have been worn over a short skirt by a Naga woman, probably of the Konyak group. It comprises dozens of strands of red, white, mustard, and black glass heart beads that most probably were manufactured in Venice and all of which date to before 1900.

The girdle includes ten bone spacers of varying lengths. Each of these, like the beads, has a superb patina and obvious age.

A plaited cotton loop at one end is matched by a shell disk or button at the other which has been decorated with borders of tiny drill marks coloured with dark lac.

Such belts with all the beads they required were displays of status and wealth.

Jacobs (1990, p. 308) illustrates several related examples.

The belt is in excellent condition – there are no losses and the threading is robust and stable. The colour scheme of the beads is particularly pleasing and more complex than many extant examples.


Daalder, T., Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment: Australia, Oceania, Asia, Africa, Ethnic Art Press/Macmillan, 2009.

Jacobs, J., The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India, Thames & Hudson, 1990.

Shilu, A., Naga Tribal Adornment: Signatures of Status and Self, The Bead Museum, Washington, 2003.

Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

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