Ancient Broken Beauties
The philosophy of Wabi Sabi, the art of Kintsugi & broken words of the Sufi

We are all broken, Poe
There is nothing more human than that.
Kovacs in dialogue with AI, Poe.
Quote from the Serial Altered Carbon.

Here comes a piece of advice how to protect yourself against the New Wave of Fake Beads.
Get hold of a Broken Beauty.
There are no fake beads with cracks and scars.
All the copies are perfect because that's how the customers from China like them.
Let me tell you a story.

Mount Kailash

Some thoughts on bead imperfection
Mount Kailash is for pilgrims one of the holiest places to visit in Tibet. There are two lakes nearby to this unique mountain. They have been surrounded by sacred myths even before the arrival of Buddhism. Mansarovar is the good lake of the Gods, and Rakshas Tal is the evil lake belonging to the Demons. All pilgrims avoid the Devils lake and only make their journey around the lake of the Gods, Mansarovar.

Today the walk around Mansarovar is a walk through garbage. The masses of ignorant pilgrims have left tons of shit there. It is really a depressing sight. The only pristine clean and beautiful lake in the area is now the lake of the demons because no pilgrim want to visit this place. What a wonderful irony.

 I hope you see the comparison between what has happened to these lakes and the ancient beads.

For the Chinese collector, an ancient bead with a crack will bring bad luck. Hence perfect beads have gone up in an almost singular price spiral while beads with cracks, scars, and other flaws have been left unvisited by the garbage of greed.
The best way to investigate the trail of fake beads is to follow the money. Perfect beads have become the target of simulacra, while the so-called bad luck beads in the same development have become more real than ever. is in many ways like a pilgrimage around the lake of Rakshas Tal. I adore the scarred beads for many reasons, and not only because they are affordable. I see myself in the scarred bead. I don't strive for a perfect life, and hence I cannot see myself in a perfect bead. If perfection comes my way, I welcome it, but for me, life is to see perfection in imperfection. Hence I wrote this praise to our scarred beads and life:

                ...and a praise to C. G. Jung

Often the scars, wear, and tear of time contributes directly to the beauty of a bead. Calcification is one of the clearest signs of true age. The calcification on this elongated Indus bead below has a marvelous translucent shine.

BB 1 - 56 * 11 mm


Wabi Sabi  & Sufi

Wabi Sabi (侘寂) is a Japanese philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism. It is centered around the aesthetics of the perfectly imperfect. One could, in a western mind frame, call it an embracement of amor fati to such an extent that the acceptance of transience and imperfection turns into aesthetic worship. In the absence of a personal God in especially Zen Buddhism, worship is substituted with or transformed into adoration of the existential humanness in the three marks of existence. These three marks are:

三法印 Sanbōin

無常 Mujō
苦 Ku / 空 Kū
Emptiness or absence of Self-nature

One could argue that the Japanese Zen Buddhism has completed the existential philosopher Kierkegaard's stages, the aesthetic, the ethic, and the religious with a fourth stage: a return of the aesthetic phase in a transhuman, but yet personal religious and ritualized setting of worship.

This octavated aestheticism is unfolding in a state of religiousness without religion and moral. In this sense it comes close to world of the Sufis, where not objects from daily life, but poetry becomes the invisible carrier of what cannot be understood within the dual frame of the ordinary mind. A Zen koan says: If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. Rumi says: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.

This aesthetic sacredness of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete is opposite to the contemporary rigid and nouveau riche Chinese concept of perfection. However, one should not forget that Zen-Buddhism originated from mainland China and that China these days is one of the places in the world with the fastest cultural evolutionary speed. The days of the one-dimensional bead seller and collectors from China will soon be gone because in these singular times of change, the English proverb, It takes three generations to make a gentleman, is no more valid. It goes much faster than that. I have recently observed new breeds of Chinese youth with social and human skills far greater than the now more hedonistic and narcissistic youth of the west. Forgive me for these exaggerations, but I just wanted to create a little provocative platform for some critical self-reflection for us Westerners.

As Wiki puts it, the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

Kintsugi Beads
In the artwork in the middle below created by the Danish goldsmith Bodil Binner, you can see how a broken bead beauty can come to life in a golden remake.



The wound is the place where the Light enters you.


Kintsugi is Wabi Sabi translated into the art of golden mendery of pottery, as you can see in the above illustration. The essence of Kintsugi is pretty much summed up in this quote from Christy Bartlett:

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself. Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics -quoted from Wikipedia

These old Japanese concepts are almost to easy to translate into the bead philosophy of
In the case of an artistic remake of a bead, one could see it as an inspirational modulation of the Japanese Kintsugi.
The imperfection, as seen in the chipped off ends of the beads displayed below, would generally be seen as a loss for the sum total of the beads beauty score. However, the damages at the top do not obstruct the overall impression of the beads immense beautiful bodies. The beads could easily be gold capped at the top and hence shine with even more glory than in their original form and hence add to a bead's Kintsugi score.


BB 2 -  33 * 10,5 mm


BB 3 - 38 * 9 mm


BB 4 -  31 * 12 mm


Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth.


Are we not ourselves full of cracks trusting life to remake us in a golden remake?


BB 5 -  36 * 13 mm


BB 6 - 36 * 11  mm


BB 7 - 35 * 14   mm



BB  8 - 39  * 11,5  mm


BB 9 - 41 * 10 mm


BB 10 - 40 * 8  mm



Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood.
Dance when you're perfectly free.


BB 11 -  36 * 14 mm


It should by now be clear. Seen with my western eyes, a remarkable bead does not need to be perfect to be outstanding. Often I love the scarred bead more than the perfect one.

The Western bead eye
I look at the bead with a Western eye. A Western eye like mine is not professionalized to see within a split second if a bead is fake or not. However, it might be more childlike and innocent. Maybe it sees things that the professionally trained eye does not see. 


 In fact, could it be that the Asian Bead emperor wears no clothes? Are all our opinions and preferences not like clothes protecting us from the naked truth of every things impermanence? As I see it, our ways of looking are made of dream material only to be perceived as real in an echo chamber, creating a social construct of inter-subjective reality.


 I know an Austrian bead collector. He will never purchase a perfect bead. Why? His father was an archeologist. That is why. Perfect beads are an anomaly.


If you look at beads to invest in as a form of bit-beadcoins, it is evident that the perspective of your eyesight will be narrowed down. This type of Asian collectors, in general, have no historical and archeological knowledge. In a way, they are similar to the modern super-rich investor-collector of contemporary art. Here provenance plays a larger and larger role because this type of collector hardly has any interest or knowledge in the art piece he purchases. It is only seen as an investment.


 So let get back to the world of ancient beads. I don't claim to be an expert. I also like almost perfect beads. However, imperfections and scars are secondary in my choice of beads. If a bead displays beautiful colors, geometry, forms, and shapes, I rate that above all else.


  When I look at the patterns in a bead, I see sacred geometrics. These poor beads never went to university. Their makers were also not literate. However, the patterns follow the universal rules of mathematics and geometrics.


 Hence the ancient bead reminds me that the world is not only governed by blind chaos. The chaos is as intelligent as the cosmos. It is just a form of intelligence we have yet not deciphered.


The longing for absolute perfection is often dangerous, especially when collectively crystallized in politics. It reflects a totalitarian mindset.

 Also, on the individual level, the striving for perfection often turns out not to be healthy. I guess some of you, dear readers, already had some similar thoughts on that subject. I see the scarred old bead as a perfect projection field for my self. In me, there is spite of my scars and age still  Kalos Kai Agathos. There is still a firm life experienced belief in the beautiful good and just.


Please don't misunderstand me. I also love perfect beads, but only set as an organic part of a mosaic of perfectly imperfect beads.



BB 12 -  31 * 21 * 8 mm

In all chaos there is a cosmos,
in all disorder a secret order.
C. G. Jung


Dragon Marks or Mandalas
The circular marks, often observed on ancient beads, most probably arise due to the stone material being subjected to quick-changing temperature differences. These weathering marks or sometimes in the world of DZI poetically referred to as dragon mark circles somehow make a perfect painting together with the parallel multi-colored layers of extreme tenuity.

Dragon marks is a good way to cook up a story. I could also drum up a narrative on my own. I would baptize these circles within the glorious world of C.G.Jung and call them mandalas.


BB 13 -  31 *  20 * 7,5 mm

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.


Let me tell you a story.
This story will take us on an imaginary journey back to the cradle of civilization. Let us begin by taking an in-depth look at the scarred Indus Valley bead above. It has a lot of wear and tear. Now let us follow the fine lines of different thicknesses running irregular through the surface and into the bead itself. While observing this 'scar tissue', it is quite easy to come to the remembrance of the most obvious fact: This ancient bead is older than us. It has a long history dating 5.000 years back in time. However, this history is only awakened or maybe more correctly, evoked,  in the meeting with an observer. In my consciousness, each little crack unfolds an event, a history. Maybe the bead got one of its wrinkles from falling off a worn-out string. Other cracks came from being buried 1000 years under pressure from the surrounding soil. Yet another line came from quick-changing temperatures, frost on the slopes of an Afghan mountain one day and sunshine the next day. Other cracks evolved over a hundred or thousand of years due to different kinds of micro pressure. It could be that the bead was sitting in a chain of beads where they collided with each other or with the spacers between them. Contact with soil, air, skin, close, and maybe even a decomposing body in a grave also made their signatures in the form of wrinkles, patina, and calcification. Some of the more recent cracks perhaps came from the diggers shovel and a little later this particular bead's meeting with other ancient beads in the pocket of the man who dug them out. Then they arrived in a box in Bangkok, where I with exited fingers poked into them and made them collide once again.



BB 14 -  30 * 17 mm

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.



The story before the story
Agate with swirling motives is basically born in volcanoes. The swirling, curling, and circular patterns in this ancient Indus bead for me tell this dramatic story before the story. The crystalline scar to the right was there in the material before the bead was crafted. It somehow came up in the primordial volcanic boiling stone soup. Why did the craftsman choose to let this imperfection be an integral part of the bead? Maybe it was initially covered by a thin layer of agate that gave in to wear and tear after 1000 years of use.



BB 15 -  30 * 18 * 15 mm

Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.


Here is another wonderful circular swirling agate bead born out of the womb of a hot volcanic drama queen. It has a rugged surface that somehow adds a 3-dimensional space to the patterns.


BB 16 -  23 * 10 mm

Beauty surrounds us.


The cinnabar spots in the center of the eye are within the Tibetan tradition referred to as blood spots. When it comes to DZI-beads these blood spots are highly priced.


BB 17 -  21,5 * 11 mm

Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.


This greenish broken beauty looks like a cat-eye.


VBB  18 -  22 * 88 mm

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.



BB 19 -  24 * 10 mm

What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.



BB 20 - 17/18 mm

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose
comes round in another form.


Ball beads like the one above, reminds me of planets in a solar system.
Note how the reddish iron colored agate has soft circular motives, while the black colored part of the bead has white contrast lines with sharp edges. This is truly an art-bead.



BB 21 -  28,5 * 13 * 11,5 mm

When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
... When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!




Use a loupe to discover the hidden micro world of ancient beads!

f you are in possession of a truly remarkable and ancient bead, I recommend you to have a good loupe at hand. That will enable you to dive deeper into the micro world of the bead. Here you can discover marvelous patterns and colors so far hidden from the eyes of normal everyday attention. Beads can be like miniature paintings.



Click here for a super close up

BB 22 - 15 * 9 mm

The cure for pain is in the pain.




As displayed above you can see that a pattern does not need to be symmetrical to qualify for the sublime. I am not perfect and therefore I cannot see myself mirrored in a perfect bead. When there somehow is an intuitive sync between my imperfection and the imperfection of the bead, it becomes easier for me to let the scars of the bead heal my scars - not in the sense that the scars disappears - on the contrary: The synergy of scars becomes an existential act of post modern wabi-sabi. Here I realize that it is the very scars that makes me beautiful and alive, I become an out-standing individual human being thanks to my scars.

BB 23 - 33,5 * 16 * 14,5 mm

Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…
it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.


Be grateful for your scars!

So can in some ways be used as a post modern psychotherapeutic site! It provides tools for the rare ones that has seen the tremendous potentiality in cultivating gratefulness for so called 'negative' things that happened to them in their life. As C.G. Jung pointed out many years ago we grow by making our darkness conscious.




Scars come with age. Beads like humans get wrinkles with age. As a general self evident fact older beads tend to have more cracks than younger ones. This is how the passing of time leave its signature on us and on our beads.

Due to age most of the
Indus beads are crack pots.
However the elongated bicone Indus beads are more fragile than other type of beads.

The reason is a combination of age, length and the type of holes. So it is only natural that a 5000-year-old bead will be marked by wear and tear. These specimens are however unusual long and slender. This in combination with the extra large holes makes them vulnerable as shown in the photo below. At the ends where the stone material becomes thin, these beads are prone to fractures. Quite a lot of long bicone Indus beads looks like shown in the photo below.

In these four Indus beads the hole has almost bigger volume than the actual stone material. However even in ancient times, these slender beads were so much in valued that they were repaired by cutting off the fractured end. Such a repair can be observed in the bead displayed below. It has ancient patina/earth coloring on the surface of the repair.



BB 24 - 65,5 * 13 * 9 mm


This is really interesting. This almost 4000 year old Indus bead has been repaired around 2.000 years ago. The 'skin', the patina on the flattened middle of the bead is different from the skin of the rest of the bead. It is not possible to see on the photo, but the flattened middle of the bead has different skin than the rest of the bead. The patina on the flat surface has more of a Mauryan shine.



  BB 25 - 35 * 9,5 mm


Note the subtle red light in the center of the eye of the bead. (Click on the image for a larger version of the photo) Is the clear red light in the center coming from the presence of small precious stones in the center? It is not uncommon to find rubies within agate formations. Note the subtle multi -colored layers in the elegant thin lines in the brown parts of the bead.



BB 26  - (EIV 38)  - 62 * 14 mm


The bead above is broken in two pieces around the middle and glued together. The repair is so well done that it is almost impossible to see. With all the different shades of green, there is an nearly organic plant-like ambiance in this bead.



BB 27  - 28,5 * 8 mm


Calcificated Indus Beads


BB 28  - (EIV 26) - 53 * 14,5 mm


Quite a lot of Indus beads, like the specimens shown above and below, have full calcified surfaces. The reason for this is most probably that the Indus culture was a burial culture. Hence the beads were calcified by the decomposing body.

Memento Mori
Such beads are in a way perfect symbols of death. Hence their story telling is not for the faint-hearted but only for the ones who are not afraid of time and change or the ones that would like to meditate upon this unavoidable fact. As the old Romans put it, Memento mori: Remember that you are going to die.

Even in contemporary India, there are holy men, Sadhus who prefer to sit on churchyards and cremation grounds when they do their spiritual practice.



BB 29 -  26 * 23 * 7 mm


The perfect destruction
This inbuilt longing for cosmos established in consciousness includes in spirituality the chaos of Shiva. We fear destruction, and hence we do not get the astronaut viewpoint of Shiva. Shiva's destruction is necessary for creating the order of the future. This is the other side of the coin. Death and destruction is foundation of new life. Hence Shiva is also the God of fertility.

In this sense, everything is as these broken calcified bead beauties: Perfectly Imperfect.



Top to bottom

BB 30 - EIV 88  - 42 * 15 mm


The bluish calcified bead above has an unusual shape. Note how the bead maker has shaped the bead in cooperation with the pattern in the stone. My guess is that he carefully observed the motives in the stone, before choosing what shape he wanted to give to the bead. Furthermore, the holes are drilled, not horizontally through the bead from end to end, but from the backside to the end. Hence the front side motive is not disturbed by holes. This type of drilling is done due to practical reasons. It requires less work to drill these kinds of holes.



BB 31 -  EIV 30  - 34 * 7 mm


It is interesting to observe how the Indus bead above and the three below all display eye formations that have become more distinct due to the calcification process.



BB 32 - EIV 30  - 34 * 7 mm


These calcified Indus beads have super large holes and hence they are very fragile at the end points.



BB 33 - EIV  31 - 33 * 9,5 mm

The bead above and several of the ones below have been repaired by cutting of some part off the ends.



BB 34 - EIV 118 - 22 * 8,5 mm




 BB 35 - 32 * 8 mm




BB 36 - (EIV 20) - 44 * 12 mm





BB 37 -





BB 38 - EIV  34 - 24 * 8 mm




BB 39 - EIV 43  - 45 * 19 mm


At first glance, the bead above gives the impression of being an ugly fellow, were it not for the unusual intense red-brown jasper color. However, the scarred surface tattooed by time has made it attractive. The bead is like a sculpture, where an artist called time with his tools has engraved a message that can become for the one who observes. You are now the observer. My question to you is: Are the signatures made by time random or not?




BB 40 - EIV 54 - 35 * 11,5 mm


Here we can enjoy two banded jasper Indus beads. Note that the swirling in jasper often is more abrupt and irregular than in agate.




BB 41 - EIV 55 - 31 * 11 mm




BB 42 - EIV 83 - 22 * 16,5 * 7 mm


Agate with such intense red color and with white contrast bands is rare. That is most probably why in ancient times, the lovers of beads found it worthwhile to repair it at the endpoints.








Contact: Gunnar Muhlman -