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Warning: These Beads May Be Dangerous to ......
Your Pocketbook.

I have an increasingly bad feeling about many of the mala-power-energy-Buddha-prayer-Zen beads out there.
I had expressed doubts about them earlier, but am now more concerned.

In my first story on these beads I concentrated on different traditions of the healing powers of stones. Later, I visited the jewelers' sites with whom we are affiliated. Some sold these beads and some beads looked suspicious.

You can't really tell from a picture, but the "crystal" beads on one site, at least, had very straight perforations. Neither had an email contact.

Turquoise, jade and red quartz are plastic and glass, plastic and glass, and plastic and glass.

This "crystal" is a soft plastic. The beads are lustered and don't scan well.

Packaging of "Turquoise Healing Beads." Selected Trading Corp, Miami. Made in China.

Another offending label. Made in China; no company name.


Kat Kanata of http://beadincircle.hypermart.netemailed me about the healing power of stones. She makes and sells genuine stone and other mala beads and I asked her if she had come across any fakes. She said she was seeing a lot of plastic ones.

On my next trip to the local dollar store (where I have buying these) I picked up a new group with nifty self-closing plastic bags (above). When I opened the first one for this story (the crystal above) it was immediately clear that it was plastic. Were they all plastic?

I decided to make the supreme sacrifice. I took a mala bracelet into the lab (technically The Horace C. Beck Experimental and Analytical Bead Laboratory, formerly my darkroom and before that a kitchenette) and untied it.

I chose a bead from the "rose quartz" group. I gave it a hot point test, a burning test, a look under the microscope and a specific gravity test. It is glass, coated with paint for the color. The specific gravity was 2.66.

It may have a little lead, not uncommon for Chinese beads. However, it did not fluoresce under a UV light, ruling out a little lead.

But, then I took a look at the end bead, formed from two beads. They both had mold seams. Although larger than the glass bead, the round one is much lighter; it even floats in water. (Specific gravity <1.00). These two are plastic

Mala beads have become a real phenomenon, but how many fakes are being sold out there? I wouldn't expect to find real gem beads in our dollar store, but I saw an ABC News clip the other day with girls in a boutique choosing the brand at above right.

Another recent AP dispatch, Power beads are popular fashion statement, datelined Waterbury Connecticut and run in our local paper on 10 December 1999 said that Madonna and Courtney Love popularized the trend. Again, they are claimed to be stones. Do the divas know the difference?

How can you protect yourself?

Look toward a light through the perforation. Is it perfectly straight (you can also trail through it with a needle)? Stones are properly drilled from both sides and have joints in the center where the drills meet; glass and plastic will have straight channels.

Also take a good look at the ends of the beads
 If they are stone they will be the same color or pattern all the way through. These glass ones have flat, clear ends;
the rest of the bead is coated with paint.

The newest batch of these beads in my collection has two web site addresses: and The first one no longer exists. is the home of "Gabrielle Accessories." They currently list no bead of any sort.

I tried to send them an email, but nothing would go through. I filled out a request form,
but it, also, would not work. Here was my message:

      Dear Sirs,

      Your email link does not work.

      I have recently bought some of your "mala" or "power" bracelets.

      They are made of glass and plastic beads. However, they are not so marked.

      They are labeled "crystal," "jade," "turquoise," "red quartz," etc.

      Before I put a story on, I would like to give you a chance to comment on this apparent mislabeling.


      Peter Francis, Jr.

But, as I said, the form didn't work. It gets curiouser and curiouser.

The AP article quoted above listed prices of $12 to $14 dollars for these bracelets of around 21 glass and two plastic beads; I have seen prices as high as $15. I don't mind paying a buck (a dollar) for a short strand of Chinese glass beads, and if you mind paying these higher prices, so be it. Otherwise, Caveat Emptor!


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