Dzi, the mysterious and one of the most sought after antique in the world had galvanized me to learn more though I’ve seen few times when my parents had them kept at home as a sacred ornament which they believed to bring good luck to our family. Gathered with my friends over a warm Bukhari after tiresome badminton, the beer-bonding session was on the floor. Gradually, we all became debatable and debated on many topics ultimately landing to an elaborative debate on Dzi for long. Though they have their own stories about the origin and its significance, the Dzi bead is one of the most baffling bead of all, known to human being today.
Dzi (pronounced as “zee”) in Tibetan word mean “good retribution, dignity and perfection.” Dzi are found primarily in Tibet, and neighboring Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh and Sikkim. Although the geographic origin of Dzi is idiopathic, it is accepted as “Tibetan Beads.” Dzi beads are made from agate (a cryptocrystalline variety of silica, chiefly chalcedony, characterized by its fineness of grain and brightness of color), and have decorative symbols composed of circles, ovals, squares, waves or zigzags, stripes, lines, diamonds, dots, and various other archetypal and symbolic patterns.
The authentic “Pure Dzi” and “Chung Dzi” are found primarily in Tibet, and the “Dzi Family” can be found in Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh and Nepal. The later are “etched carnelian.”
Colours mainly range from brown to black, with the pattern usually in ivory white. Dzi beads appear in different colors, shapes and sizes; the surface is usually smooth and waxy. The round brown dot surrounded by white circle is the eye of Dzi. The number of “eyes,” is considered significant. The symbolic meaning of these beads is based on the number and arrangement of the dots. The highest number of eyes on ancient Dzi is twelve.
Tibetans believe that Dzi are naturally formed, not man-made. But since the knowledge of the bead is derived from several different oral traditions, the beads have provoked controversy regarding their source, their method of manufacture and their precise definition. Numerous attempts to trace the origin had failed and till now, it is unclear why, when and how the Dzi was manufactured.
Among the many myths and legends describing the origin of the bead, the main belief is that the Gods created them. Tibetans believe the Dzi as precious jewel with supernatural origin.
Some oral traditions of Tibet says that the Dzi were once insect that lived in a kind of nest call “Dzi Tsang” in Tibet. But the insects became petrified in the form of Dzi when unearthed, touched by human hand or woman’s shirt.
Another legend says, the compassionate vajrayana Buddha rescues the severe epidemic of Tibetans by releasing the magical Dzi to bring them good luck, ward off evils and protect wearer from physical harm.
According to Tibetans, there are many criteria to identify authentic Dzi beads such as the Weathering Marks (signs of aging and it represent the age of Dzi. They are tine lines of different thickness running irregularly on the surface of the Dzi bead. However, not every old Dzi bead will have the weathering marks), Cinnabar Dots (the red or black speckles that grow from within the body of Dzi to its surface), Diaphaneity (the transparency of the Dzi body, which is the ability to allow light to pass through. However, not every authentic Dzi are transparent), Circular Dragon Marks (the natural streaks that circulate the body of Dzi), Body Color (the body color of younger bead will have a shinning black and white. While older one varies from dark brown to light brown), Motif (the unusual pattern in the Dzi determines the higher price value than the common patterns), the Dzi with larger size is at higher value.
In Bhutan, the Dzi beads are known as “Cat’s eye.” Dzi has become the most singled out historic jewels among the Bhutanese people and the increasing transaction of Dzi is attributed to the rising Chorten and Lhakhang vandalism in the country.
The origin of Dzi in Bhutan is not documented but elderly Bhutanese believe that the Dzi originated from ocean.