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What is Dzi?

Dzi (which has also been spelled gzi, ghzi and tzi) is the most treasured of all beads in Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan regions.  The word dzi translates roughly as radiance or light.  And, in most Buddhist cultures, light is associated with clearness of mind and enlightenment.  It is widely believed that wearers of dzi are able to attain good fortune through having these qualities.

In Tibet, dzi has been revered as sacred stones, often worn as protective amulets on necklaces, bracelets, or other adornments.  Dzi is also believed to be empowered with blessings or the capacity to bestow blessings to its wearer.  In traditional Tibetan medicine, dzi is sometimes ground into powder and ingested or topically applied with poultices.  This is one of the reasons some dzi beads have "dig marks" where a portion of the bead had been chipped away to be included in medicinal use. Occasionally, dzi is used as a burnishing tool to apply gold leaf to thanka or gilt bronze artworks.

Ancient dzi is quite rare.  Dzi is one of the most valuable and collectible Buddhist relics.  In Tibet, dzi is passed down within a family for many generations as heirloom.  Dzi can also be used as collateral for bank loans.  In recent auctions held by Poly Group, ancient dzi have fetched prices as high as RMB 4,500,000.

Stone beads have been decorated since 3000 BCE in Mesopotamia.  The practice then made its way to ancient India around 2000 BCE.  The first dzi beads appeared somewhere between 2000 and 1000 BCE in ancient India.  It is believed that an Eastern Tibetan king had a few hundred thousand dzi beads brought back by his soldiers from Persia or ancient Tajikistan during a raid.  It is rumored that of all the treasures the king saw in Persia, none caught his eye as dzi had.