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Antique Tibetan Gau with Filigree and Turquoise

Antique Tibetan Gau with Filigree and Turquoise

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This amulet box, known as gau, ga'u, or ghau, is from the late part of the nineteenth century or early part of the twentieth century. It is made in the classical style for these Tibetan amulet boxes that would carry a protective item or prayer inside it to protect the wearer.

The same elements are repeated in the four directions. The top of the box is decorated with filigree and inset with florets of turquoise stones. The stones are set in a wax-like material that is soft when heated and hardens to contain the stone when cooled down. Please note that two stones are missing.

The top of the box is made of a low silver alloy or silvered copper. The back is made of copper and is embossed with what I assume is a protective incantation. The amulet box has two bales on the top and bottom as well as two on the sides to slip a chord in if desired. One side (I believe this is the bottom part) has a symbolic representation of a dorje or Vajra, a ritual object in Tibetan Buddhism, signifying the thunderbolt.

The box measures 7 x 7 x 1 cm (2 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 3/4") with an extra 1 cm (3/4") in length for the bail. Weight is 40 grams.

You can find a similar object in the American Museum of Natural History

The last picture shows how the gau was traditionally worn.
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