Enquiry about object: 5203

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Outstanding Naga Bead & Shell Necklace

Naga People, Eastern India/Western Burma
19th century

length: approx. 90cm



UK art market

This is an outstanding example of a Naga shell and bead necklace – superior to most examples published to date.  It comprises a fine mix of some relatively rare trade beads across seven strands. Included are orange white heart beads from Venice which date to the 1800s and possibly earlier. There are blue glass beads and also white beads made from conch shells. There are also four bone spacers, and at the top of both sides are large, creamy-colour conch shell segments decorated with rows of poker drill marks. (The conch shells typically come from the Bay of Bengal.)

Most significantly, the beads at the most lowest part of the necklace as worn are early Gujarati agate (cornelian) beads which most likely date to the 18th century.

Such a necklace was worn as a clear display of status and wealth, most typically by the Angami Naga of Nagaland state in north-eastern India.

Jacobs (1990, p. 332) illustrates several related examples.

The example here is large but stable and wearable. It has a fine patina and obvious age.


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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