Enquiry about object: 6328

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Tibetan Buddhist Human Bone, Coral & Silver Rosary Beads (Sin-‘phen)

18th-19th century

circumference of main bead strand: 56cm, weight: 66g



private collection, London, UK.

This Buddhist rosary (sin-‘phen) is of fine quality. The patina from age and handling is incontrovertible.

The rosary comprises a superb, large spherical bead; many flattened spherical cream coloured beads of human bone; three coral beads; silver beads; and two fine finial beads of silver shaped as stylised dorjes. These and the other silver beads are threaded together on natural fibre stringing.

The three coral beads possibly are intended to symbolise the Buddhist trinity – the dharma, the Buddha, and the monkhood (sangha).

The two groups of ten silver beads each are intended to serve as counters. All are present.

Buddhist rosaries evolved from ancient Hindu-Indian mala prayer beads. In Tibet, they were used by both laymen and monks. They are supposed to comprise 108 beads plus others as counters, although sectarian variants might have as many as 111 beads plus counters. The main prayer beads were used to count repetitions of prayers and the counters were used to record multiples of the main beads, so that thousands of repetitions could be counted.

Tibetan rosary beads made from human bone are relatively rare.

The set here is in a very fine, stable and wearable condition. Each element is smooth from wear, and handling. The bone beads all have a beautiful, deep creamy patina.


Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.

Sherr Dubin, L., The Worldwide History of Beads, Thames & Hudson, 2009.

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

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