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What are Netsuke and Ojime Bead?

Netsuke ('netskei) is a small carving usually made from wood or ivory and originally developed in Japan. This form of small sculpture served as toggle in Japan for over a period of more than three hundred years, for both functional and aesthetic purposes.

Kimono, the traditional form of Japanese dress, had no pockets. Women could tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco wallets etc., on a silk cord, from their obi (sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. To stop the cord from slipping through the obi, a small toggle was attached. This toggle is called netsuke (approx. 2inches). A sliding bead (ojime, approx. 1inch) was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to tighten or loosen the opening of the sagemono. The entire ensemble was then worn, at the waist, and functioned as a sort of removable hip pocket. All three objects, the netsuke, the ojime and the different types of sagemono were often beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays of rare and exotic materials. All three items developed into highly coveted and collectible art forms but it is the netsuke that most captivated the collector, which is closely followed by ojime bead.

Today, contemporary netsukes and ojime beads of the finest quality are still being carved, as highly respected original works of art. While not intended to be worn they adhere to all the standards of a true netsuke or ojime bead. There are several dozen highly successful netsuke artists, many of whom have been apprentices to great carvers of the past, who are currently creating modern masterpieces. Another fascinating aspect of these contemporary netsukes  and ojime beads is that they reflect the time and place in which artists live. In the early part of this century, dealers encouraged netsuke carvers to emulate antique netsukes both in style and subject matter, as they had a charm of their own.

In USA, netsuke¡¯s aesthetic value has been widely noticed and there is a large amount of netsuke lovers and collectors. Every year, millions netsukes and ojime beads are imported into America. In Britain, netsuke¡¯s value has also been spotted and the group of netsuke fans is growing dramatically.

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