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Men Wearing Necklaces: A Co Tu Tradition

In Co Tu Village in Quang Nam Province, traditional celebrations require young women to wear one-of-a-kind costumes that can only be found in the community. But what is attracting more visitors into the village more than these unique, beautiful dresses are the men who wear necklaces.

What is special about these necklaces is that they are made from silver and agate. Agate beads in particular come from the fangs or manes of wild boards, bear claws, or small figures made from hard-to-find wood. They are then fashioned into different designs, circle or oval being the most favoured. The style and length of the necklace depends on the man’s position in the village. Specifically, elderly men wear the necklaces during Tet (Lunar New Year holiday), wedding receptions and other special occasions.

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An agate bead is locally known as “c’ron.” Just one bead is equivalent to a cow or buffalo. It is so valuable that it is the expected present to the bride on her wedding day. It is buried with the owner when he dies.

The agate necklace plays a very significant role in the lives of Co Tu men. Before, those who could not afford to have an agate necklace had little chances of marrying young wives. Poor Co Tu men could only marry widows or wait until they get rich before they are allowed to marry young girls. And when they did, they had to give an agate necklace to their parents-in-law as a gift. On the other hand, a rich Co Tu man could marry any young girl he wanted, even someone as young as 15 years old.

Today though, the agate necklace plays a more symbolic than determining role. Co Tu couples have adapted to the modern times and have learned to give rings instead of the traditional strings to their partner. Agate strings can now be easily found in markets and sold as gifts or souvenirs at VDN50,000 (US$2.28) per string of ten beads.

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