Pumteks and Pyu Beads.
Burmese Beads include Pumteks (which means ‘buried thunderbolt’) and Pyu period beads (800 BCE – 200 CE), as well as some more contemporary items.
Pumtek were made from opalized palmwood about 1500-2000 years ago and etched in various distinctive patterns. As with dZi beads, no one is sure of the exact process by which the beads were etched.
Collectors look for unusual patterns and good contrast. Newer ‘Pums’ are from the beginning of this century when the supply of the ancient beads fell behind the demand. These copies were made from petrified or ‘silicated’ (but not opalized) palm wood, and are also collected. These are a good way to start a collection before jumping into the older (more expensive) Pumteks.
Pyu beads are generally made of some type of agate such as carnelian. The striped ‘Military Beads’ are said to have represented rank during that period, and are prized when the red color is deep and translucent. Of the Pyu animal beads, elephants are most common and are often found in jade, carnelian, or glass. Many fakes abound in this category.
Know the Seller, or know the bead.