Olive trees are well known as a source of fruit and oil, but what many people aren't aware is that the wood itself is among the hardiest of all fruit trees. Its fine, closed pore finish and resistance to fungi, disease and fire makes it a versatile wood for kitchen utensils, such as the mortar and pestle, yet also for jewelry craft - namely Olive Wood Beads (also known as "Bethlehem Rosary Beads"). The beautiful contrasting blond and brown of the curled grain, coupled with its durability makes olive wood particularly ideal for Rosary Beads, many of which are produced by co-operatives in the ancient city of Bethlehem - presently located within the Palestinian Autonomy in Israel.
Skilled artisans have been producing Olive Wood Beads from the ancient fruit-bearing trees in Bethlehem for over 2,000 years. Most are made by Orthodox families who have developed their knowledge of the ancient wood turning techniques from previous generations. Olive Wood Beads are produced in a wide range of different sizes, however they are almost always oval or spherical in shape owing to their use in traditional Rosaries. Cherry wood beads are often used as 'prayer markers', dividing sections of the beads in accordance with the number of prayers and decades included. Whilst the production of Olive Wood Rosaries is still a thriving industry in Bethlehem, many of the strands exported are very old. Crafters often incorporate antique beads from other broken strands that can sometimes be over a Century old!
Up for sale is an authentic strand of Bethlehem olive wood beads that are not quite old, but beautiful nonetheless!