Authentic Dzi

This Page Explains The Characteristics Of Authentic Dzi

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With modern fake copies of Dzis flooding the markets (even in Tibet too!), this page is meant to provide guidance on the characteristics of what constitutes a real dzi.

1. Tiny Circular Weathering Cracks


The most obvious sign of true ageing is the presence of tiny circular cracks that appear on the surface of the bead to a greater or lesser degree depending of the density of the stone and its age. Beads which have been buried for a long time will show this effect (see above 2 photos), probably due to water getting in and then expanding and contracting due to seasonal changes in the climate. Please also take note that real weathering cracks reach quite deeply into the surface of the dzi bead itself.

However, this is not a mandatory characteristic. Certain kinds of agate do not always show this ageing, for example, agate which is very dense in structure, and therefore the surface is less porous and less likely to be affected by this kind of aged wear. In addition, a bead which has not been buried but has always been worn and not exposed to climatic extremes would probably not show this type of ageing.

Recently, a lot of the modern copies also have these circular markings on them which are artifically created and the key to telling the difference between the modern and the old is to inspect the cracks with a 10x magnifying glass.

On the real Dzi beads, the circular cracks are worn, and have a rounded edge to them where the crack goes into the stone, usually from being worn for millenia. On the other hand, the modern fakes tend to have a sharp and more squared edge to them where the stone's surface has been ground and polished after the ageing effect has been applied. Also a lot of the modern copies are too smoothly and perfectly formed, whereas old beads have natural dinks and chips that have been worn smooth over time to give an unfakeable effect. The photo below is that of a fake Dzi stone. One can see that the fake weathering marks are slightly too consistent in size and only appear on the surface of the bead.

2. Cinnabar Spots

The so-called cinnabar dots on Dzi Beads are due to the iron elements which exist in the Dzi mineral. After long term exposure to the atmosphere, these iron elements turn into ‘rust’ or Ferric Oxide (Fe2O3). They are naturally developed inside out through the pores in the Dzi mineral. They range from light brown to dark red in colour.

The cinnabar spots can be detected easily with the aid of a 10X magnifying glass. A few cinnabar spots on the Dzi beads can be seen with the naked eyes, but this is usually rare. The cinnabar spots are natural, not artificial. Artificial man-made cinnabar spots can be detected by simply flaying the dzi’s surface. Only fake cinnabar spots can be scratched off and removed.

As compared with normal Dzi beads, Dzi with cinnabar spots are rare, and are therefore so valuable and precious. Any Dzi beads with rich distributed cinnabar spots is very unique and rare, let alone a Dzi Beads with rich cinnabar spots and fine appearance and quality.

However, this is not a compulsory characteristic for real Dzi because not every real Dzi will have the cinnabar spots effect. However, the presence of cinnabar spots does help in the authentication of real Dzi beads. In addition, an above average dzi is one which has cinnabar dots.

3. Worn-off Thread Holes

Dzi beads have a central hole running through the length of the bead so as to allow them to be worn by the owner if he desires to do so. Dzi beads are usually worn with a piece of thread or thick cord by Tibetans. The cord is threaded through the two holes at the ends of the Dzi bead. Dzi beads with a long history of having been worn by people will appear to have irregularly shaped holes at the ends of the beads. This is due to the body movement causing wear and tear on the dzi bead. New fake factory manufactured dzi beads usually are very smooth and have perfect circular holes. However, this again is not a compulsory characteristic as some ancient Dzi beads may have been kept next to Buddha statues for centuries and across many generations in families or in temples.

4. Internal Colour of Dzi

With reference to the above picture, the Dzi with the red background is real whilst the dzi with the white background is a modern fake. The internal colour of a real dzi is ivory white and one can see that the white eye motifs extend inwards all the way to the center of the dzi bead. On the other hand, a fake dzi has eyes painted on the surface and has an unnatural looking internal body.

This factor is for reference only in relation to broken dzis. One should rely on the the 1st three points to determine the authenticity of Dzi beads.