Prayer Box Religious Jewelry

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The Prayer Box Jewelry Tradition

This site is devoted to providing information about prayer boxes (also called "wish boxes") and the traditions surrounding their uses.  Our goal is to cultivate an appreciation of the prayer box and an understanding of the history and contemporary uses of prayer boxes.  Feel free to submit your ideas and suggestions to us!

Origins of Prayer Box Jewelry

There has been debate over whether the prayer box originated in the Buddhist or Hindu faith, but these prized religious objects are treasured today by many faiths, and even by nonreligious individuals.  Originally worn as a religious ritual object, prayer boxes are now used primarily as jewelry and worn for sentimental, not religious, purposes.  

Prayer Box Variations

Prayer Box with Screw Off CapPrayer boxes come in many styles, shapes, sizes and materials, but they all share one thing in common - they are containers for a cherished item of religious or personal significance.  The opening to the compartment is most often secured with a latch, of which there are many types. Others open and close with a few turns, much like the lid on a glass jar.  The prayer box above and to the left has a screw-off lid, whereas the one to the right employs a traditional latch. 

Religious Uses of Prayer Boxes

Prayer boxes are used by the followers of many faiths, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.  All faiths use prayer boxes to focus the mind on one’s prayerful thoughts or secret wishes, typically by writing down a prayer or wish on a small piece of paper and placing it into the box.   Doing so is believed by the faithful to make these prayers and wishes come true.  Just be careful, for as Oscar WIlde noted, "When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers."

It is also possible to place a small religious object inside the prayer box.  A follower of the Hindu faith, for instance, might place a sacred Rudraksha seed,  also known as "Shiva's tear," inside the prayer box.

Religious Motifs

Prayer boxes can incorporate images of deities or religious teachers, such as Ganesha, Lord Buddha (see image to the left), or Quan Yin.  Much more common, however, are prayer boxes that integrate  religious symbols into their designs, such as the star of David, the Christian cross, the Christian fish symbol (Ichthus), praying hands, the Om symbol, or the Tibetan prayer wheel.

Sentimental Uses of Prayer Boxes

Heart-Shaped Prayer BoxPrayer boxes also have sentimental uses.  For example, a spouse's lock of hair, a small photo of mom, the first lost tooth of your child, and other cherished items can be placed in the box and worn throughout the day as a remembrance of a loved one, here or long departed.  An inspirational thought might also be written down and placed in one’s prayer box, from which strength can be drawn throughout the day.  A heart-shaped prayer box, such as the one displayed to the right, is a popular choice when the piece is used for sentimental expressions.

Inspirational Message Prayer Boxes

In recent years, message prayer boxes have made their way onto the market.  These boxes are usually engraved with a word, such as Peace, Hope, Love or Faith.  These words can also be written onto the box using silver wiring or granulations (small silver dots), that are soldered into place to form each letter of the word.

Many individuals use prayer boxes as jewelry, and for no other purpose. A beautiful prayer box does make a splendid focal point or centerpiece on a necklace and adds class to any bracelet.  What is the difference between a prayer box pendant and a prayer box charm?  Size.  Smaller boxes are usually used as charms on a bracelet, whereas larger boxes are typically used as the centerpiece of a necklace.

Prayer Box with Amber StoneSome prayer boxes have embedded gemstones, such as the one shown to the right, which is adorned with an amber stone.  Does the gemstone incorporated into the design have any special significance?  Usually not.  In most cases a person will buy a prayer box with a particular gemstone out of personal preference or to satisfy a particular fashion need.  

One exception, of course, is the selection of a prayer box with one's birthstone.  The prayer box to the right has a garnet stone as a centerpiece, which is the birthstone for the month of January.

Other Secular Uses of Prayer Box Jewelry

When put to secular uses, prayer boxes are often called "wish boxes."  Wish boxes are too small to be of much use as “portable storage.”  One exception is their use as a pill box for carrying medication on one’s person. Wish boxes are also reported to be in use as containers for aromatherapy botanicals and medicinal herbs.

We have heard of one person who used his wish box for carrying a small piece of paper on which was written his important computer passwords. Of course, there are also stories of people using wish boxes to hide illicit drugs, a practice that can only be considered an act of profane sacrilege.

Materials and Finishes

Prayer boxes are commercially available in many materials, including sterling silver, plated silver, gold vermeil (right  image), pressed gold, brass, and pewter.  By far, the most popular material is sterling silver, typically silver that has been antiqued to give an appearance of age.  

The popularity of silver is not difficult to understand.  Prayer boxes are sacred, and as such should be made of a precious material, not brass, pewter or any other base metal.  However, gold is so much more expensive than silver, making silver the metal of choice for most consumers. 

If you would like to learn more about sterling silver, we recommend this site:

 The Sterling Silver Guide


Prayer Box With Turquoise

 


On Prayer

"One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer."

G. E. Lessing
German Dramatist
(1729 - 1781)

 

"Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action."

"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."

Mahatma Gandhi
Indian Philosopher
(1869-1948)

"Prayer is an important practice that serves to internalize the ideals of the Buddhist path."

G. R. Lewis
Buddhist Faith
Fellowship Founder

 

"Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of himself. "

Mother Teresa
(1910 - 1997)

"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing."

Rev. Martin Luther King
Minister and Civil Rights Leader
(1929 - 1968)

"No prayer is complete without presence." 


Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
Persian Sufi Mystic 
 (1207-1273) 

"In prayer, it is better to have heart without words, than words without heart."

John Bunyan
Puritan Minister and Writer
(1628-1688)

"Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God."

Maltbie Davenport Babcock
Presbyterian Minister and Poet
1858-1901