It started with divine inspiration and ended in the most pedestrian way possible — with sandals. Here’s how Buddha beads — purported to give mystical powers of success (aventurine), love (rose quartz), intelligence (amethyst), discipline (leopard jasper), PMS relief (carnelian) — became the jewelry of the moment.
500 B.C. Buddhism is founded in India; beaded wooden bracelets are worn for prayer.
January 1999 Inspired by Buddhism’s amulets as well as healing crystals, Zoe Metro, owner of New York City-based Stella Pace, introduces ”power bead” bracelets at a New York trade show. Soon, Metro’s beads — made from wood and semiprecious stones and selling for $12 to $22 — hit trendy boutiques.
May 1999 Self magazine profiles Metro and mentions Keri Russell and Madonna are bead babes. Intermix, a NYC boutique, sells 700 in a week. Says owner Khajak Keledjian, ”We were running out of small bags.”
Fall 1999 The trend goes supernova: Knockoffs pop up in catalogs and department stores, are hawked by street vendors, and wind up a fave corporate holiday gift. Metro’s brand becomes the McDonald’s of bracelets: Over 500,000 sold.
February 2000 Fashionistas declare the beads ovah for women, but okay for men. Metro bows out: ”The knockoffs have flooded the market!” Still, crowds swarm faux-bead displays at Bloomies; Esprit’s sandals are beach-blanket nirvana.