Ethnic jewelry of Ladakh

Ladakhi woman wearing ethnic jewelryphoto courtesy  Dietmar Temps

Ladakh is a dry, high-attitude region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and its people have a highly distinctive style of dress and very unique and interesting jewelry. The most recognizable ornament of Ladakhi women is a turquoise studded headdress called perak. There is a post on my blog dedicated exclusively to the perak (here ) and in my today's article I want to tell about other jewelry worn by Ladakhi women. Perak, being an impressive ornament on its own, additionally serves as a perfect display for numerous other hanging jewelry pieces that can be attached to it. Those who can afford it attach a separate piece of cloth to the left side of the perak decorated with up to ten vertical lines of coral ending in cowrie shells. To hold the perak in place silver chains are used. Below the chains hang flat silver plaques, usually with an endless knot motif - the auspicious and luck-bringing design, one of the Eight Auspicious Emblems of Buddhism - from which dangle small bells.

Girl from Ladakh wearing hanging ethnic jewelry
 photo courtesy Sandeep Achetan

Ladakhi woman wearing perak with attached silver jewelry and a coral decorated piece. Photo source

On their left shoulder Ladakhi women wear a chatelaine, and from the belt around the waist they hang one or a pair of silver or brass disks usually bearing the endless knot, from which six or seven lines of cowrie shells are strung with little bells at the end.
Earrings often consist of several strings of beads, usually of coral, turquoise, glass, mother-of-pearl, but most favoured are those of small fresh water pearls. The arrangements are made in various ways. In some, bead strands are attached to a metal ear stud, which can be set with turquoises, in others they are attached to a metal hoop whose weight is supported by chains. In another popular type small strands of pearls pass over the ear top, their ends fixed to the hair, and pearl tassels hang below.

photo courtesy  Shirish Prabhudesai

Ladakhi women in traditional dress and ethnic jewelry
photo from here 

Around neck Ladakhi women wear at least one or two necklaces. One is typically an amulet, usually octagonal in shape, made from silver or gold and set with turquoise or coral hung on a string of pearls. A second necklace may be of strands of coral, turquoise, amber, dzi (etched agate) and mother-of-pearl beads . Sometimes it may consist of a string of coral beads alternating with seven miniature amulet boxes or of a series of silver flower-buds strung with corals and turquoises. Another example is the type of necklace that combines two strings of coral beads with silver spacers and a fringe of drops.

Ladakhi girls wearing ethnic jewelry
photo from here

19th century necklace from Ladakh with coral beads and silver spacers
Necklace from Ladakh incorporating coral beads and silver spacers. 1800-1850 Embossed silver, turquoise and coral. The Victoria and Albert Museum  

Upper class women also wear a stiff biblike collar piece made from a piece of padded red cloth onto which a large central silver amulet is stitched along with coral, turquoise, amber, carnelian, pearl, mother-of-pearl and silver beads. A fringe of silver amulet boxes may be stitched on the lower end.

Bib-like breast ornament of Ladakhi women
 Photo source

Silver chest fibula is used to secure a heavy shoulder cloth or a shawl. It can be in round, rectangular or lozenge shape, ornamented with good luck symbols. Around their wrists Ladakhi women wear conch shell bracelets. These bracelets are normally worn throughout the woman's life. Wealthier women instead of conch shell wear silver bracelets in similar shape.

Ladakhi women wearing traditional necklaces,
photo from here

Ladakhi women in traditional dress and jewelryphoto source

Ladakhi men usually decorate themselves with a bit of jewelry, too. They wear silver or copper amulet boxes in a variety of shapes, a hooped earring with a single turquoise stone in their left ear and a single turquoise stone on a silk cord around their neck. Some additionally wear silver or gold rings set with a single turquoise or coral stone.


  1. I have spent a year in India many years ago, and I have to admit that Indian women from south to north are beautiful and very stylish. It is always interesting to watch how every tribe adorns themselves and the variety there is. Ths can teach a thing or two about how different everybody and everynation is. Diversity and rich cultural background are things humans should be proud of. Technology and acceptance are strong points to assure a better future. I've been carried away a bit but I love how culture is so diverse all around the world.

  2. That is amazing! The world has no end of styles and fashions. A Hollywood costume designer would have a tough time creating these looks with every tool and their disposal and these ladies can do it under such primative conditions. There are elements that remind me of Native American and Inuit peoples as well. Some of the materials are different, but some of the designs are close enough to raise interesting questions and to who used to be where and when :) Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and all the info! xoxo

    All Things Bright and Lovely

  3. I've seen a few of these pieces in the Kashmiri emporiums all over India. The huge chunks of turquoise are just glorious. x

  4. Look e acessorios maravilhoso amei show de imagens,
    uma semana abençoada.
    Curta meu Canal:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNNlFtDc1-o

  5. Wow! I think one can begin to appreciate these pieces once they are presented one by one. I mean, those necklaces.. I wouldn't be able to actually see how gorgeous they are unless each is being isolated. That head gear (Perak) with those turquoises must weight a lot.. really wow!

  6. Great list!! Thanks for sharing.Great post, thanks for sharing .if you want to get Ladakhi Jewellery