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 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
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
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
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
Prayer 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
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 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
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
When put to secular uses, prayer boxes are
often called "wish boxes." Wish boxes are too small to be of much use as “portable
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
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.
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:
Sterling Silver Guide
"One single grateful thought raised to
heaven is the most perfect prayer."
G. E. Lessing
(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
"Prayer is an important practice that serves to
internalize the ideals of the Buddhist path."
G. R. Lewis
"Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift
of himself. "
(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
"In prayer, it is better to have heart without words, than words without heart."
Puritan Minister and Writer
"Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God."
Maltbie Davenport Babcock
Presbyterian Minister and Poet