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The Most Disgusting Bead Material

Of course, it depends upon what disgusts you, but many people are repelled by, ah, er... excrement.

We begin with the human variety. Tibetan Buddhist monks enclose a small bit of the material produced by the Dalai Lama in a case. This they wear around their necks as an amulet. Sorry, I have no details about how it is gathered or processed.

In crowded, resource-scarce and technologically advanced Japan, human waste is specially treated with high temperatures to turn sludge into a rock-hard material. This is used as gravel for making roads and jewelry is made from it. I am not sure if there are any beads of this stuff, but cufflinks are available.

As for animals, a large American bead wholesaler told me that in the 1960s and 1970s many cheap, plain brown beads he and others were selling were made out of animal feces. They were either molded to shape or the natural shape (think of a rabbit pellet) was used. They were lacquered for durability and sold cheaply.

O.K. Out of piety, greed and high-tech necessity. What else could stir the human imagination to turn doo-doo into beads?

There is actually an industry of this, or perhaps we should say three separate industries. They are linked because they are all in the far north and they all use the same basic material. It turns out that moose droppings are the preferred turd.

Yes, there are people in Maine (USA), Alaska (USA) and Sweden selling moose droppings as earrings and necklaces to tourists. They have been varnished and are packaged nicely. No one makes any bones about what they are. The beads apparently have a fair market as novelty souvenir items. In Sweden, the local children gather them and are paid for their work.

It won't do you any good to visit me here to see any of these. There are none in the Center for Bead Research collection (and mercifully, no graphics). Maybe someone would like to make a donation, but it is not likely to be tax-deductible.


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