Rosary Beads

an art of culture, tradition, and spirit

A Principal Element and Souvenir of any Islamic Society

Found in numerous cultures and religions, the art of rosary beads is one of patience and aesthetics, coupled with fine detail and intricate workmanship. Rosary beads are a staple of arab-Islamic culture, but they've also been used in Christianity for centuries, and also preceding that in Hinduism and Budhism.

In Egypt, rosary beads have taken on a commercial value in many instances, available mostly in tourist-focused locations such as the Azhar, El-Hussein and Khan El Khalili. Nonetheless, due to the religious connotations of the beads, their essence is retained, and the tradition and secrets of the craft are maintained and passed on through generations of shop-owners.

The shops that are specialized in rosary beads can simply overwhelm a customer, as one finds himself surrounded by what seems like thousands of beaded chains of all colors, lengths and shapes. Some beads are transparent, some opaque, some glistening and some with a distant sheen. The length of the actual chain varies but also the size and shape of the beads themselves, ranging from small round marbles to larger ones with calligraphy or adorned with stones. Some are oblong and others are longer in shape like tiny eggs of all possible colors. The colors are infinite, and some have a pearly iridescent hue, giving them a remarkable aesthetic feel. The rules per se are limitless, giving way to unlimited creative combinations and freedom of arrangements.

The Manufacturing Process

Some may perhaps argue that crafting beads is not a sophisticated skill, but rather a simple profession that focuses on creating the final product, in large amounts. Nevertheless, the final product is comprised of a wide range of creativity, color, shape, and diversity in material and methods.

The predominantly used materials are synthetic or artificially created beads from plastic powders, natural materials such as precious stones, and also wood and crystal. Some beads are engraved with calligraphy or are adorned with other decorative materials as well.

The manufacturing process of synthetic beads involves mixing polyester or other powders together and transferring them to molds to create the beads. Then they go through a three step process that includes being machine-shaped and treated, then finely polished and brushed-out to achieve a final finished affect.

With precious stones, machine use is kept to a bare minimum, as precious stones have special attributes and are traditionally meant to be preserved and handled with proficiency. Precious stones are purchased in blocks of kilos, which are then chopped into smaller blocks, and with high dexterity, are manually shaped by hand and knife tools into the required bead shape. This requires extreme skill and talent of workmanship, as the hand-created beads must be symmetrical within themselves and of an equal size to each other.

Origin and Affect

Precious stones are thought to have a beneficial affect on the human body, acting as stabilizers and neutralizers that fix defects of the natural human electromagnetic field. The function of precious stones is widely accepted in the Islamic culture, but stone as a precious material is relatively expensive for the common citizen. The primary function of rosary beads in Islamic tradition is its use as a method to keep count of prayer, and mainly as a reminder of religious duties and divine presence.

The origin of rosary beads in Islamic culture emerged as a simple counting of earth stones and pebbles to keep track of prayers. This was accepted and no restrictions were applied to the method or material. From this point, the concept of rosary beads in Islam developed to accommodate the more creative side of individuals and utilize the more precious materials created on earth.