Ancient Pumtek Beads

Antique Pumtek Beads

Different antique pearls from Burma. The Pumtek - Myanmar pearls made of fossilized timber. From Sarah Corbett

In Burma there are many kinds of fossilized timber. Fossilized timber is timber that has turned to stones. In contrast to other fossilized materials, which are usually indentations or densifications, fossilized timber is a three-dimensional depiction of the initial atom. The Pumtek beads are made of this Myanmar fossilized timber. These are also called "buried thunderbolt pearls".

More than 1000 years ago, the origin of these fine, scarce pearls began. They made the most fine fossilized wooden beads, and the fall of the Piu era was accompanied by a drop in the pearl manufacturing industry. Beads in Burma are called Chin beads, which originate in the Chin region of northwestern Burma.

Like every beautiful and unusual old decoration, these pearls also have a wealth of 20 th centrury variations, produced and sold in various qualities. Old Pumtek beads from 800 B.C. - 200 A.D. are often minute and consist of opalisedpalmwood. It can be authenticated by means of lighting tests, these beads are fluorescent.

Subsequent Pumtek Pearl releases are often made with other petrified species - this is a general rule, as there are releases of old Pumtek Pearls made from other petrified species.


The beads were used by Judy for the new owners, an antique shop in Palos Verdes. It was no simple job, as many of the beads bounced off the perforation - full of very tough debris that was extremely tough to clean. She thought that these were such large and extraordinary pearls, and there were so many that she persuaded the museum to give the museum a number.

You and Judy thought it would be great if I came down, saw the pearls and made the choice for the museum. I was on a flight to LAX two nights later, saw Elizabeth, went to Judy's and we started flying over the pearls. This range comprised rock beads, such as crystal, agate, something that resembled verdant iade, cartoule, decorative beads (such as those of India and Persia), and small Pumtek beads.

There are also pearls of glas that imitate the crystal and stony pearls and Indo-Pacific pearls. Pumtek beads refer to Pumtek beads, Pumtek to zip and zip to "etched" or "decorated achat beads" in general. The first time I was confronted with Tsi Pearls was in 1970, when I read The Universal Pearl by Joan Erikson, who briefly referred to the "mysterious Tibetan Tibeads".

The Bead Journal's first edition, Robert Liu in 1974, features a play about imitation sculptures of Zi pearls. Only in 1979 I could see (thanks to Liza Wataghani) a group of Zi pearls in reality, and soon afterwards also carbon and carbon fiber and carbonate pearls from Afghanistan (courtesy of Kate FitzGibbon and Andy Hale).

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