Tibetan dZi bead

The dzi (zee) is a uniquely Tibetan stone, an agate of oblong or round shape pierced lengthways. It has a shiny black and white design, characterised by the strong eye pattern, circle and square or double wave. The most valuable dzi were those with three or nine-eyes, the best being those with sharply contrasting patterns, shiny and with a faintly oily surface.

The dzi is either worn as a single bead about the neck, mainly for its auspicious or medicinal value, or in a traditional necklace interspersed with coral, pearls, amber or turquoise, or even, if the owner is fortunate to have a collection of dzi, a whole necklace is made from the stones. Tibetan dZi beads are felt by Tibetans to be of supernatural origins. It is inconceivable to most Tibetans queried told the same set of stories concerning the origin of dZi. Offered first was the belief that in ancient times dZi were the ornaments of semi-gods who threw them away whenever they became blemished even slightly; this is said to be the reason that hardly any of the beads are found in perfect condition.

Because it is magic, the dZi has the power to protect its wearer from catastrophe. Just as jadee is worn to forestall accidents and turquoise is worn to purify the blood and protect from jaundice, so is the dZi worn to ward off attacks by evil spirits which might cause sudden sickness and death. Not only are dZi worn in the traditional (Central Tibet) woman's necklace with read coral, pearls and a gold charm box studded with turquoise but also about the neck on a shot cord by both men and women (and usually faced on either side by a red coral). Women will generally have a few more coral and turquoise beads in this strand as well but the minimal prerequisite is the dZi to serve as protection to its wearer. If the bead should somehow become broken while it is being worn, this is taken as evidence that the bead has done its job and absorbed the shock of the supernatural attack intended for its wearer. This renders the dZi useless for any further amuletic protection. This is why any broken dZi is no longer pure. dZi bead are also used by Tibetan doctors as an ingredient in some of the pills they make to treat epilepsy. An unbroken dZi is made broken and part of it is ground up along with various herbs to make the pills.