From the Sands of Western China
Look at these incredible beads. At first glance they are ivory carvings, but no, the shape is too organic.
Twenty million years ago (you'll recall) India had not crashed into the continent of Asia. The Himalayas did not exist. What is now the vast TaklaMakan desert in western China was a seabed. The shallows grew coral reefs.
The cataclysm came. The mountains pushed up and blocked the moist winds and the sea turned to desert. The coral turned to stone.
Fast forward a few million years. The desert's edges are irrigated and thriving with Buddhist communities. The petrified coral surfaces and is found auspicious. The monks fashion prayer beads from the ancient material.
My dealer estimates these were made hundreds of years ago -- Ming or Qing dynasty. Their edges are well worn with use. Dabs of green and red paint still cling in their crevices. They are heavy and full of mystery.