Re: Chinese? Japanese? Both? Neither?
Re: Chinese? Japanese? Both? Neither? -- beadiste Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Frederick Mail author
10/07/2012, 23:14:35

I would like to imagine that these beads were souvenirs from a world cruise on the Queen Mary or some other luxury voyage in the early 20th century. And these do seem to be "tourist" or "market" strands because they appear to be mostly commercial. Dozens of times, I have run into nearly identical necklaces on Portobello Road in London & occasionally on eBay.

The iconography on the molded beads is clearly Japanese: Treasures of the Takaramono and masks from the Noh Theatre, Okame and Oni. These images are clues to the origin of these beads but not necessarily evidence.

A reckless assumption would also be that all Japanese beads are extremely well crafted: Therefore, these could not be Japanese...In fact, I do not know whether they were made by Chinese or Japanese craftsmen. Meanwhile, a friend likes to say that such examples were probably made by Chinese under the direction of Japanese entrepreneurship. Personally, I feel there are more clues which support the theory they are Chinese.

From my experience, as a specialist in ojime for forty years, I can assume that the diameter of these beads is about 3/4" or 18 mm. Also, the aperture of about 3 mm would be consistent with the size used for the majority of ojime..."Ojime" literally means slide closure in the Japanese language. Therefore, the hole needs to function well as a slide.

Many years ago, I frequently found beads -like the ones in this necklace- on the four corners of Chinese, beautifully embroidered, black silk, Mahjong table covers. More often than not, these necklaces are comprised of various groups of four like the ones found on the table covers. The necklace in the eBay auction -referenced in Chris' post- is different from all of the others I have experienced because a large Peking glass bead has been added as a centerpiece.

In order to maintain their status in the community, "experts" are often compelled to resort to clues rather than evidence –leading to hasty assumptions. The only absolute truth about ojime is that there is an exception to every rule. Fine Ojime are among the rarest and most artistic of all beads. Notice the ojime depicting sumo wrestlers on the back jacket of the latest edition of American edition of The History of Beads.

I am surprised and delighted to hear this eBay seller calling her beads "Chinese." After all, Chinese beads are selling very well these days.


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