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Children's Beads in Iran

I lived in Iran for three years in the late 1970s. This is where I became interested in beads and began collecting them and stories about them. Some of the beads in Iran were made especially for children. Most were made for children younger than you, for babies and the very young.

One of the children's beads is made from jet. Jet is dark black, has a warm feel to it and polishes nicely. What is it? It is a kind of coal, a special kind that makes nice beads. In Iran, jet beads are used mostly for children to keep away any bad spirits or people who might harm them.

Jet has long been popular in Iran. At the ancient city of Nishapur, which was destroyed 750 years ago, over 40% of the beads archaeologists found were made of jet. It is likely they were worn by many people, not just children.

Another unusual bead is pinned onto baby clothes -- a square chunk of salt. Usually other beads, glass or plastic, maybe a small shell or coin, are added to it, but the salt is the most important part of this piece of children's jewelry. Salt means good luck and is put on babies so no one will steal them.

Then there is iron. Iron is widely used by people of the Muslim religion for protection. Muslims believe there are other people who live on Earth called jinn. The jinn were created by God before humans. They live in dark places and rarely come out. They are not dangerous to people, unless you make them angry.

You say you have never heard of the jinn? Of course you have. In Europe and America we call them "genies." Remember who was in Aladdin 's lamp? The story of Aladdin ("the faith of God" ) comes to us via the 1001 Nights.

So, if you are worried that some jinn will take your baby away you pin some iron to his clothes. Why iron? The jinn are afraid of iron because people use iron and they don't.

A favorite bead in my collection is a pendant with a silver case that opens to show a long
iron nail inside, bent over so it fits into the case.

It's perfect for keeping the jinn away


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