Mala bracelets and necklaces are typically used by Hindus and Buddhists to keep count of their chants and mantras (repeated sounds to aid meditation). They are made from different types of materials depending on the purpose of the mantras. Wood is one of the materials used as prayer beads.

So it was no surprise to learn that palo santo beads are used in mala bracelets and necklaces. Palo santo (Spanish for "holy wood") beads are made from the Bursera graveolens tree which grows in South America.   These scented beads - they smell like sandalwood - certainly intrigued me when I received some for review from Ecuadorian Hands.  These beads from their new line are made only from  trees found to have died naturally in the forest.  They are also supporting, with some of the proceeds, a reforesting program to plant for tomorrow.

Palo santo beads
Palo santo is  used as incense and in indigenous medicine. The oil from the wood is also used as an essential oil for aromatherapy.

Mala necklaces and bracelets are usually in multiples of 9. So I used 18 of the palo santo  beads for this easy mala bracelet tutorial. (Note : for true malas the 18 do not include the the guru or marker bead. So chose the right size of beads to get the correct bracelet size you need.  These palo santo beads were larger so I could only string 18 not 19 to fit my wrist).

Mala bracelets like this one typically use 3 hole guru beads. They mark the end of a cycle of mantras or chants.  As I did not have any guru beads, I added seed beads to just one of the palo santo beads to make it different from the others.

The choice of colors - crystal and copper - for the bracelets I made were inspired by those used for specific mantras. Crystal is used for mantras meant to appease and copper, for "increasing" (knowledge, merit, etc) mantras.

I used 0.8 mm beading elastic. I used 8/0 beads for crystal bracelet.  The copper beadwork was made with 11/0 beads.

String 18 palo santo beads alternating with the smaller beads. Tie the elastic tightly into a knot.

Keep that first knot tight while making a surgeon's knot. This involves making  a second knot with additional passes of the elastic end through the knot.  Pull tight.

Stretch the elastic to reveal the hole of any of the beads and feed one elastic end through. Pull on this end so the knot slips into the bead.

Trim the ends.

Thread a beading needle with 6 lb Fireline and add a stop bead to the end. If you are new to beading, this means to sew through an odd bead a couple of times. It stops all the other beads from falling out, hence its name. Sew through any palo santo bead.

Pick up enough seed beads and sew through the palo santo bead again so the beads line up from "pole to pole".

Repeat as many times as you like.  Then finish off by doing half hitch knots through some beads.  Cut of the thread.

Note that it is best to do the beading after the stringing because it will be harder to get the elastic through if you did it the other way around. Working on a bracelet is also easier than holding a solitary bead.

These simple bracelets can be made with any kind of bead.  What's more, they can also function as fidget jewelry to remove nervous energy. Take off the bracelet and fidget through the bracelet!


I used my iPhone 5, camera+ app and Modahaus tabletop studios - natural light for final project photographs and in artificial light for the tutorial pictures (in my basement studio).  Check here for further information on my How to Photograph Jewelry Webinar.

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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