Komboloi - The Mystery and the History of Greek Worry Beads

Design idea 8712 Necklace
by Jamie Smedley, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Komboloi, this old man of more than 2500 years old, keeps walking around the Earth, offering presents of soul, spirit, body, and beauty.
- The Athenian Center of Chaplets

Komboloi - Greek Worry Beads: Origins, History and Use

The word Komboloi (pronounced come-bo-loy) comes from the Greek words "kombos", meaning a large number of knots, and "loi," meaning a group that sticks together. Komboloi beads, also known as "worry beads," are arranged in a strand of sixteen to twenty beads, with one bead tied and set off, usually adorned with a tassel. Greek worry beads are commonly believed to have first been used on Mount Athos in northern Greece during medieval times, where strands of beads made of woolen knots were tied on a string and used as an aid to recount prayers.

Your first encounter with Greek Komboloi worry beads may have been a quick flash of beads being skillfully maneuvered in the hands of a nervous traveler or hanging from the rearview mirror of a taxicab, however the origins of this renewed trend are from the days of ancient Greek history.

Of course, to the unaware observer, worry beads could mean nothing at all, they might even be considered a poor representation of beading skill since the strand is made of loosely strung beads. But for many who know what a Komboloi is, it represents a chance to learn about life and to create art.

For many years, Greeks looked down on worry beads as an idea too old for modern people. Recently they have revived this tradition, and now the rhythmic clicking of worry beads can be heard almost everywhere, from executive meetings to a club down the street.

One voice that continues to speak praises and educate the public about the history of the Komboloi is Aris Evangelinou. After authoring a widely popular book titled The Komboloi and Its History, he has helped stimulate Greek interest in the beads.

When Greece recently developed its tourism industry, the Komboloi, an important element of Greek culture and tradition, became popular again, especially as a souvenir for travelers.

Ancient Greeks realized that the methodical twirling, rhythmic clicking and the distinct feeling of having each marble slip over their fingers could take their mind off their worries and welcome a calm, relaxing serenity. Today, this principal has expanded to include taking one's mind off particularly bad feelings or habits such as overeating and smoking.

While amber is the traditional material for worry beads, you can find them in almost any material. Komboloi is revered like a living organism, for it is graced with the ability to change shape, form, content and role depending on its holder. Everyone can buy or design a Komboloi that corresponds to their unique personalities.

How to Make Komboloi

You can make beautifully crafted, authentic Komboloi using natural authentic amber, naturally derived crystals, natural materials and noble silver or gold metals. Most Komboloi are strands of approximately sixteen to twenty beads, with one bead tied and set with a shield or priest head and adorned with a metal or silk tassel. The un-strung portion of the string is usually equal to the length of the holders open palm.

Personalizing Komboloi

There are a variety of ways to personalize your own Komboloi including the size, color and number of beads, as well as using a shield, tassel or priest head. A Komboloi should consist of an odd number of beads, with an even pattern of fours, plus one. A functional Komboloi will have even sets of four and one extra in the middle. Either way you embellish your Komboloi, you will be creating a work of art that will become a personal symbol of independence, freedom and wisdom.
Design idea 870Z Necklace

Komboloi Beads Health Benefits

In an age when life can be too fast-paced, exhausting and stressful, depression and bad habits can become factors of everyday life. Komboloi beads can help alleviate stress and provide helpful alternatives to unhealthy behaviors in the following ways:
  • a helpful distraction when trying to give up bad habits like smoking, overeating or nail biting
  • a remedy for certain ailments
  • a relaxation tool
  • a delight to our senses, with its silky round beads, weighted mass, vibrant colors, sense of amber or wood and musical clicking
  • a symbol of wealth, because it displays the fact that we have plenty of free time and can afford fine quality beads
  • a reflection of our personality, as it reflects our ego, tastes and personality in the same way our home décor or wardrobe does
Komoboloi Beads Aesthetic Value

Komboloi beads are also objects of admiration, offering owners...
  • a precious keepsake
  • a piece of art when designed with high aesthetic standards
  • a collector's item for its rare and precious qualities of beauty
  • an amulet when it contains symbols of our beliefs
  • a home décor feature for furniture, table and the walls
  • an heirloom that is reminiscent of the lives and the tales ancient cultures told, as well as bearing the story of our own lives for generations to come
Kolomboi and You

A Komboloi will have a special meaning for each individual who holds it. Once you spend the time to carefully find the familiar warmth and feel of your own Komboloi, you should not share them, but instead encourage others to seek or make their own Komboloi companion. As you feel the smooth beads sliding through your fingers, you just might find yourself hooked forever on this heartwarming Greek tradition, and be proud to call yourself a friend of the Komboloi.

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