The necklaces were made in various designs and are always put on by the elderly men during Tet (Lunar New Year holiday), wedding receptions, and other special occasions. Strings of agate in circular or oval shapes are their favorites. The agate beads usually come between fangs or manes of wild boars, bear claws, or small figures made of rare and valuable wood.
According to Co Tu ethnic minority people’s tradition, the beauty of necklaces and the length of fangs and claws show the positions of Co Tu men at their villages. As these valuable strings are considered part of their life, these jewelries will be buried with the owners when they die.
In the past, poor Co Tu men who did not have an agate necklace had almost no chance to marry young wives, said Dinh Van Bot, a 67-year-old patriarch at Ta Lau Village, Ba Commune in Quang Nam Province’s Dong Giang District. They had to tie the knot with widows or wait until they became rich to get married to young wives, and the first gift the men had to give their parents-in-law were strings of agate. On the contrary, a wealthy Co Tu man could marry a 15-year-old girl.
The 82-year-old patriarch Y Cong at Tong Cooi Village said in the past, agate was very valuable. It was the gift Co Tu men presented to their lovers and parents gave to their daughters on their wedding days. A bead of agate, which is called by locals “c’ron,” could cost a cow or a buffalo.
Things have changed, however. Nowadays, agate strings are merely symbolic gifts and can be bought at VND50,000 (US$2.28) per string of ten beads at markets. Some young couples of the ethnic minority group have started to give their better halves rings instead of such agate strings.