The timeless charm of agate

Jewelry made from agate dates back to ancient cultures in Vietnam and remains indispensible today


The custom of wearing agate jewelry dates back thousands of years; according to archaeologists, by 700 to 800 BC, from the latter half of the Bronze Age and early phases of Dong Son and Sa Huynh cultures and the pre-Oc Eo civilization, agate gems were already quite prevalent. Agate has moved on from era to era as both ancient and modern people continue to use the beautiful, shimmering stone to make their jewelry.

Archaeological findings indicate that inhabitants of Vietnam were introduced to agate from the trade and exchanges of Sa Huynh and Dong Son inhabitants with kingdoms such as India, China and Thailand. The culture with the richest sources of agate was Sa Huynh, located in modern-day central and southern Vietnam, with a record of agate necklaces that were crafted out of materials previously unseen in Vietnam.

Sa Huynh people had highly evolved aesthetic tastes, craftsmanship skills and a flair for beauty. They dwelled in an area comprising present-day Quang Nam and Quang Ngai, with early exposure to the outside world demonstrated by excavations in Lai Nghi (Dien Ban, Quang Nam). Here, among funeral offerings and jewelry of gemstone and glass, were found hundreds of agate necklaces, including two unique artifacts: an agate necklace carved with a water bird and another necklace featuring a tiger. According to archaeologists, both are among the rarest artifacts from all sites of the early Iron Age in Southeast Asia.

Archeological results also indicate that some mountainous districts of Quang Nam, including Nam Giang and Dong Giang, which are the main region of the Co Tu ethnic group, show evidence of the Sa Huynh culture. Archaeologists exhumed relics of Sa Huynh inhabitants in this region, finding relics dating back to around 2,000 years ago. These archaeological relics of Sa Huynh culture were distributed all over the homeland of Co Tu dwellers and the abundance of agate jewelry owned by these native people indicate that the Co Tu people kept long-standing ties with the Champa, who were the successors to the Sa Huynh. Despite the millennia gone by since Sa Huynh culture has disappeared, the beauty of their agate jewelry remains undeniable

Today, agate remains an indispensable material for jewelry and other crafts of ethnic minorities who dwell in the Truong Son-Central Highlands region such as Co Tu, Ta Oi, Bru-Van Kieu and Hre. Tied into necklaces, several little beads are usually added between two agate beads with mingled colors of black, red, white and green. The shapes of agate necklaces have remained unchanged over time, including spherical, oval, vertebral, rhombic and flat agate pieces; in particular, rhombic shapes result in colorful agate necklaces that resemble those made by Sa Huynh inhabitants thousands of years ago. However, you also may check the cultural symbol of Japan out

For the Co Tu people, agate is the most valuable jewelry of all, worn by women of all ages. Agate is also a must-have offering in weddings. Agate represents beauty, and the desire for affluence, wealth and peace. As a result, agate patterns are quite prevalent in costumes, adornments of nĂȘu trees, ritual pillars or traditional communal stilt houses (guol).

The tradition of ancient jewelry has been passed on to generations of ethnic groups in the Truong Son Mountains, which enriches their legacies of fashion and decoration and tells the story of their long aesthetic histories.

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