Recently we were privileged to have a response to one of our blog posts from a very knowledgeable collector of ancient beads – Dr. James Keats (via a Jewelry Designer group on LinkedIn). Dr. Keats has been a collector of these very special beads for over thirty years! He echoed some of the issues we've discussed on this blog – regarding why we love beads. His collection includes the putek-pyu type beads; ancient agates, and pre-columbian and ancient Indus valley beads. He has ancient fish beads delicately sculpted out of jade, agates, amber and bone from South East Asia and China. These fish beads are almost 2000 years old and their artistry is simply amazing.
While we can't even begin to discuss these exotic types intelligently, we're truly fascinated. Dr. Keats says that in addition to all our other reasons for obsessing about beads (bead addiction, life symbolism, healing properties, and more), there's yet another compelling reason to pay attention. This reason is that carefully collected authentic ancient beads have increased in value -- well beyond the stock market indexes some love to follow! Dr. Keats bought his ancient beads as a hedge fund or a mutual fund. Each type of bead has its own ''wave '' theory of appreciation -- due to economic, social, politcal and cultural factors. The successfulness of China (with its large Buddhist population) led to an astronomical rise in the price of the fabled "dzi '' beads, ancient jades and other beads such as pumtek-pyu types. Some very rare beads are approaching values of $500,000 each! Of course prices like this drag the prices up of similar beads--just as in real estate.
The hobby of collecting ancient beads is one of the fastest growing hobbies for professionals in the 40 to 60 year old range. It takes commitment and study -- there are many fakes coming from China, Taiwan and Afghanistan etc., and one most arm themselves with knowledge to make the appropriate purchase from a respected dealer. Dr. Keats' career in dentistry, his love of history and his degree in chemistry have helped him make wise purchases in the past. His advice for anyone interested in collecting and/or investing is as follows:
-Work with scholarly private collectors
-Study a lot and buy little until you have developed expertise and focus
-Put priority on beads over 1000 years old
-If you are a female collector, consider beads from the ancient Tairona culture of Columbia*
Look for Dr. Keats as 'Pumtekman' on Ebay, if you want to see a few samples of ancient beads that he currently has on the market. *This was a culture in which women had great influence; in addition, their lapidary skills were incredible, and the colors of the beads are also delightful. I've selected a sample for the image above to give you an idea.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you'd likely enjoy our post on Venetian Glass Beads or other posts on historic beads.