Japanese Ojime and Ivory Bead Necklace | Early 1900

Ojime are handcrafted decorative beads which originated in Japan as early as the 16th century. Strictly speaking the word bead is superfluous as Ojime itself means cord fastener bead. They are typically between 3/4 inch and 1 inch in diameter with a vertical hole from top to bottom, and are made from fine metals, ivory, hornbill ivory, precious stones, jade, lacquer, tortoise shell, glass, coral, bone, stag antler, boar tooth and tusk, nuts and seeds, as well as other natural materials. As evident in this piece, aside from being decorative, they have a very specific role to perform in traditional Japanese attire and as such they go a long way towards defining the concept of adornment, namely that which is useful as well as beautiful.

Five antique ivory Ojime were restrung in the 1950s, as many netsuke became separated from its decorative components due to extensive ware. The piece incorporates five antique ivory ojime, ivory beads, and tiny 14ct gold beads to form this 16-0” long necklace, standardly worn by what was referred to in the 1900s as the “Modern” Japanese woman. Condition: Excellent.

Additional Information —

Although the Japanese did not have an appreciation of jewelry in the European sense, they did have a long tradition of craftsmanship, artistry, decoration and adornment. Over time these small sets of accessories became highly refined and sophisticated. It was in the Meiji Period, (1868 to 1912), that the Inro became an indicator of wealth and taste, and the Ojime evolved into a functional but beautifully crafted object incorporating symbolism, mythology, poetry and themes from everyday life.

Further information can be had by reading: Ojime Magical Jewels of Japan by Robert O Kinsey.

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