Tibet has a long history of making hand crafted silver jewelry which dates back thousands of years. In medieval times, other cultures wrote of the wondrous skill of Tibetan silversmiths, who were believed to be some of the most accomplished in the world at that time. Chinese documents dating back to the 600s A.D. note the incredible skill of Tibetan silver work. Buddhist temples dating back to the 7th century A.D. have been found to be decorated with intricately worked silver medallions and sculptures. These decorations were deeply held religious symbols such as Om symbols and representations of gods that have had significance to Tibetans for thousands of years. Because travel to and from Tibet has been made difficult in recent years, much of the jewelry is now made in Nepal.

No one is certain where or when the Tibetans learned how to work with silver. It’s possible that the skill sprang from within their culture, but the fact that Tibet was on the Silk Route which ran from China to the Mediterranean area indicates that they could have learned to work with silver from the metal workers of other regions such as India, China, Turkey and Iran.

In traditional Tibetan culture, silver jewelry and all types of decoration have had important significance for Tibetans for a long time. Because the Buddhist religion is intricately interwoven into every aspect of Tibetan life, their jewelry reflects their beliefs and cosmology and often takes the form of religious symbols, deities and amulets. These symbols can serve to accent their devotion to their faith, as well as to provide protection from harmful elements. Sacred and auspicious symbols such as the Om (the sacred sound of the universe), the wheel of dharma, the universal knot, the dual fish, the conch shell and the lotus flower commonly adorn Tibetan silver jewelry.

As opposed to other cultures in which value is gauged according to precious metal and gemstone content, Tibetans attribute their jewelry’s worth according on its size and symbolism. Color is also an important component of valuing jewelry in Tibetan culture as certain colors are valued over others. Healing properties are also attributed to their jewelry, with specific importance given to certain metals and gemstones.

For that reason, Tibetan jewelry tends to be oversized and heavy and has an unrefined, organic quality unlike silver jewelry found elsewhere. Tibetans don’t try to hide soldering marks or joints, which gives their pieces a rustic look that’s valued by collectors for its raw, handmade quality. In addition to hand cast silver jewelry, Tibetan jewelry is also made of copper and gold. Whether silver, gold or copper, pieces are often embellished with semi-precious stones of which the most common are turquoise and coral. Lapis lazuli, amethyst, carnelian, amber, jade, garnet, sapphires and rubies are also used.

Author's Bio: 

Tibetan jewelry and silver jewelry are topics of interest to Sylvia Smelcer, who is the owner of Tibetan jewelry websites.