This small, fine ga’u box is of a type known as a khedi in Lhasa and would have been worn by a Tibetan woman. It comprises two halves that fit together: a silver front and a copper back.
Of oval form, it has a hammered silver front that has been chased in high relief with Himalayan scrollwork around a good-sized central coral cabochon in a high box setting. The front is further embellished with a beautiful section of gold or heavy gilding.
The bottom is decorated with a stylised thunderbolt emblem beneath which there is a further loop. The top has a long silver tube through which a cord would have been threaded to allow the ga’u to be suspended from the neck.
The back comprises hammered copper sheet.
Ga’us functioned as talismanic or protective devices and would enclose items such as mantras written on small scraps of paper and other such things that would help protect the wearer from all manner of ills and dangers.
This box has much wear and clearly has been much used and highly regarded by its owner or owners. The back is held to the front with old leather cord. Overall, the ensemble shows much age.
Clarke, J., Jewellery of Tibet and the Himalayas, V&A Publications, 2004.
Ghose, M. (ed.), Vanishing Beauty: Asian Jewelry and Ritual Objects from the Barbara and David Kipper Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 2016.