Ethnic Jewels

An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment

Some Fantastic Heirloom Skeypuks from Ladakh

Skeypuks are worn as collars on the neck. Legend has it that one of the queens had a thyroid problem that led to a swelling on the neck. An ornament was created to cover this up. Naturally, the Queen was a 'key opinion leader' and so this fashionable neckpiece was adopted by other women. 

Most are made of coral and have turquoise, lapis, pearl and silver embellishments. Some have silver ghaus as well. And others have square amulets.Others are large and may take on proportions of complete breast collars.

Various styles may be associated with specific regions and this may be attributed to nothing but a simple preference or historic availability.

A few examples from the WOVENSOULS collection:

More of this category may be seen on WOVENSOULS.COM

New pieces with fake materials or replica materials are abundantly available but authentic antique pieces are rare. Comparative examples are found in a few museums but are largely inaccessible to the majority. And so, poor quality material finds its market!  Age old beauty however, cannot be replicated.

jaina mishra


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Comment by Toya on April 28, 2014 at 23:29

To add to this discussion I would like to turn attention to a photograph on Linda Pastorino's page titled "Ladakh padded gorgette". The discussion on that page and the photo of an old piece will add some more information to this topic.

Comment by Jamey D. Allen on April 28, 2014 at 22:49

Dear Jaina,  I would ask you to re-read my comments, and try to understand the gist of the message more clearly.  I would also ask you to refer to the related thread of messages that also concern the issue of skeypuk authenticity, where I have posted replies.  You draw a number of unwarranted conclusions.

Be well.  Jamey

Comment by Jaina Mishra on April 28, 2014 at 13:06

Hello Jamey


Thank you for your detailed comment on the pieces that I have posted.


You begin with a clause of  “So far, the very few pieces I've seen,” and then go on to mention that you will believe that this is a "traditional" style only “after a museum specimen is accessioned and dated” or have “some reliable evidence” presented.


1. This makes me think you have searched for but not found any reliable evidence in any museum or document.  Naturally the confidence with which you write, leads me to assume that you have visited every museum that exists and that you have read every book / article on the subject ever written or printed in any language. This, is indeed an impressive feat and I am honored to make your acquaintance!


2. But even after this assumption, I fail to understand your logic and hope that you will enlighten me.I would like to understand how the absence of an example in a museum or any reliable evidence leads to skepticism about a claim that someone from that source-culture is making.


Are you saying that unless a piece is found in a museum / any reliable material, such a tradition cannot exist and could not have ever existed?  Are you saying that a traditional art needs a presence in such institutions before its existence is proven?


This alarms me. I have always thought that the converse is true.  That a museum presence or a book, an article or a photograph of any subject are all created with the aim of documenting / preserving the subject and not to ‘affirm’ its existence. The subject is usually oblivious to the institutions of art & culture that enshrine it.


3. As a case in point I would like to point you in the direction of two other cultures in Western India that also fail your tests of ‘reliable evidence’ and yet have the most interesting traditional costumes & history i.e. the Lambanis and the Siddis.  Should we consider their culture & traditions invalid simply because no one has offered any ‘reliable evidence’ about the existence of their costume traditions yet?


4. I am nobody in the world of culture and art, barring an article in Hali, another in a Asian Civilisations Museum Magazine and some other cultural websites so I will not try to convert you from being a skeptic to a believer.


5. But the use of strong language e.g ‘fraud’ on the thread that I have started and the pictures that I have posted is offensive to me and I see this as defamatory.  I hope that you did not mean that.

6. Even if directed at the website I would not take the liberty of making a statement such an accusation without irrefutable evidence.

Jaina Mishra




Comment by Thelma on April 27, 2014 at 12:19

So there are two possible uses for the skeypuk: (1) as Jaina describes ... it is worn by women following an aristocratic trend; (2) by priests, as part of a ceremonial costume. Interestingly, Truus Daalder includes photos of both types of skeypuk in her book 'Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment'. So we should be looking for old photos of women ... and also of Buddhist monks.

Comment by Thelma on April 27, 2014 at 11:51

Back again, with another picture; this time from the Van Der Star collection, in the book 'Ethnic Jewellery from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands'. It is described as a ceremonial gorget, 20th century, worn by the chief lama. So this one is presumably part of the costume of a priest at a ceremony of a particular order of Buddhism. That order, of course, needn't be limited to Ladakh.

Comment by Thelma on April 27, 2014 at 11:16

Reading Jaina's comment, I can see she makes a distinction between new pieces and authentic antiques, which suggests that actual, although difficult to find, examples of skeypuks exist. But what are they and who wore them?

Comment by Thelma on April 27, 2014 at 11:07

Dear Jamey, I looked at the information from the Ladakh Art Palace and, yes, they are quite up-front about it. They mention 3 types of skeypuks: (1) Fantastic Skeypuks - they claim they are the foremost makers of these and that they are crafted according to current trends; (2) Fantastic Heirloom Skeypuks - they claim they are involved in offering a wide range of these which are 'appreciated by our clients around the nation' and which are probably very expensive and intended to be handed on to heirs; (3) Designer Skeypuks - well no comment needed here. So yes there is probably a thriving workshop somewhere, possibly in Leh. I don't think they are misleading customers because they are so clear about the nature of their skeypuks. But the question is are there or were there authentic skeypuks ever?

Comment by Jamey D. Allen on April 26, 2014 at 19:53

Here is the online site for a company, based in India, where skeypuk necklaces are apparently manufactured, and where they say they have heirloom specimens:

So far, the very few pieces I've seen, that I think might be authentic, are composed in a very different style, compared to the specimens I have shown, that I believe are modern constructions, essentially made on commercial scale for export.

Call me a skeptic, but I will believe this is a "traditional" style of necklace-making when I have seen a dated archival photo of someone wearing a skeypuk in Ladakh; or when there is something like a museum specimen that was accessioned and dated, and derives from before the time I first saw the "reproductions" some twenty years ago--or much earlier.

In any event, I am reasonably confident that the pieces I have documented are factory-made, and not antique nor worn by Ladakhi women in the past.  That there may be earlier constructions, that are part of the regional costume is certainly possible.  And if these exist, there will be some reliable evidence.  In the meantime, the new necklaces are routinely sold as "rare antiques"--which is a fraud.


Comment by Jaina Mishra on October 9, 2013 at 10:16

It is my pleasure Toya.

Comment by Toya on October 8, 2013 at 16:05

These are so beautiful. I have never seen old ones before. Thank you for sharing this information.



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