This Naga multi-strand necklace is particularly beautiful on account of the dark blue of the many hundreds of tiny trade beads used in its manufacture across many individual strands.
Necklaces such as these with many strands were for women. More sparse examples were worn by men.
The necklace also includes multi-coloured beads in the lower section and towards the ends where there is a chank shell section closure topped with a small, turquoise glass trade bead.
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 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 of other colours are illustrated in Barbier (1984, p. 35), Jacobs (1990, p. 317), and Shilu (2003, p. 13).
The Naga comprise a series of related tribal groups 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 and down through generations.
The example here is in excellent, wearable condition.
Barbier, J. P., Art of Nagaland: The Barbier-Müller Collection, Geneva, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984.
Giehmann, M., Naga Treasures: Tribal Adornment from the Nagas – India and Myanmar, 2001.
Jacobs, J., The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India, Thames & Hudson, 1990.
Saul, J.D., The Naga of Burma: Their Festivals, Customs and Way of Life, Orchid Press, 2005.
Shilu, A., Naga Tribal Adornment: Signatures of Status and Self, The Bead Museum, Washington, 2003.