Red String Bracelet?

What is it about the red thread, worn around the wrist?

Bendel bracelet with heart charm and lucky chai
Bendel bracelet with chai and heart charm.


Speaking from the Judaica perspective, we call this simple, traditional bracelet a bendel. Our “red thread” bracelets, accented with a tiny charm (protective eye, star, hamsa), are one of our most popular items.

With the popularity of Kabbalah studies on the rise these days, these red threads are everywhere. The Book of Splendor (Zohar) tells us that the red thread invokes the protective power of the matriarch Rachel, who guards the wearer like her own child. Speaking as two generations of Jewish mothers (and descended from many more), trust us—this is a very good thing.

Mauli red string
Mauli red string drying

But here’s a mind-blower. It’s not just a Jewish thing…..while India is significantly east of our frame of reference, there is apparently a parallel Hindu tradition.  In India, the red thread is called Mauli, Mouli, Kalava, Charadu, Nada Chadi, Raksha, Rakshi….and if I’m getting it wrong, sorry! These red threads, sometimes with jeweled charms, are knotted around the wrist in observance of puja, or ritual.

The Indian red thread may have a yellow bar-pattern, and is knotted around the wrist as part of many rituals. There is a special tradition, for instance, of brothers and sisters knotting the thread around each other’s wrists.

Depending upon who you ask, some Hindus say that wearing the thread signifies protection by the Mother Goddess Shakti. The general idea seems to be that you wear it until it naturally disintegrates or falls off.

Some discussions of the Hindu red thread say that it even turns to “gold”, although we’re taking this metaphorically, not literally. In many of our bendels, the red thread is woven through a gorgeous sterling chain-link bracelet. You just replace the red thread when it unravels. If your bracelet turns to gold, please call me personally!

Hamsa red string bendel bracelet


Here is an excerpt from

“Legend has it that Lord Vishnu during his incarnation of Vamana tied a red thread on the hands of King Bali to grant him immortality and to rule the netherworld.

There is also a popular belief that the sanctified red thread with blessing of the deity protects a person from diseases, enemies and other dangers.”

Tony Blair and red string
Tony Blair with red string

A few years back,UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines when he wore one which had been gifted to him by Swaminarayan Mandir at theHinduTemplein Neasden in Northwest London.

And not too long ago in The New York Times, we read about William Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder empire and Lauder company chairman, wearing a red thread bracelet that he picked up at a Hindu shrine at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Raksha red string
Raksha red string

Good ideas know no boundaries! Wear your red thread bracelet, by any name, in good health!


Charm Bracelet: Hamsa, Evil Eye Charms on a Bracelet

Today, a charm-bracelet is a standard piece of jewelry for women everywhere. The “charms” may be pretty tame stuff—a tiny golden poodle, a stiletto shoe, maybe a cute mini-cupcake.

But the origin of the charm-bracelet, and the wearing of charms, was originally a bit more powerful. Charms are amulets, talismans. Their general purpose: to protect the wearer from harm.

The English word “charm” comes from “carmen”, the Latin word for song, or singing. Romance languages clearly reflect this origin. In Spanish and French, a polite greeting translates “I am enchanted to meet you” (enchante, encantado)—and in these words, we see the word “chant”, as in song. Meaning to literally be charmed, or bewitched, by singing or song. 

Many of our favorite pieces of jewelry may be called charms, because their ancient origins trace back to a belief in protective magic. With cultural roots deep in the Mediterranean and Middle East, the “eye”, the protective hand, the “red thread” bracelet, even the emblem of the fish are now worn by people all over the world. We’ve seen the “eye” and the Hamsa worn by young hipsters in Oslo, Tokyo, and lots of other places far from the lands where these symbols originated.

Do charms “work”? We certainly believe that a symbolic gesture of love, such as giving the gift of our “eye” or Hamsa jewelry, surrounds and shields the wearer with good vibes. That’s the great thing about love: one size fits all.


Star Gazing

As you know, people of the Mediterranean and the Middle East have been using traditional jewelry to ward off the “evil” eye and bring them good luck for…well, for as many generations as the pomegranate has seeds.

These amulets and talismans were not really a fashion-statement. Often, they consisted of no more than a single blue bead on a leather strand. Like a good pair of boots or a good hat, they served a functional purpose—mainly, for protection.

But, guess what: the Beautiful People have discovered these ancient emblems of protection, and they’ve become glamorous. We especially love the fact that brilliant businesswoman Lynda Resnick wears a red bendel bracelet in her executive portrait. By the way, we are in no way suggesting that Ms. Resnick, or any of the other celebs, is wearing a piece of Alef Bet jewelry—we only wish. But, it’s still cool. Ms. Resnick is the strategic powerhouse behind POMWonderful, the brand who put fresh pomegranate juice, cleaned pomegranate arils (seeds) and other fantastic pomegranate products on the shelves of mainstream American supermarkets. Her Los Angeles-based company also owns Fiji Water and Teleflora. Did the magical red thread around her wrist help it all to happen? Couldn’t hurt.

And check out these pics of LiLo, Kim Kardashian, Shakira, Rihanna and even Paris Hilton riffing on the Evil eye theme. Since the rich and famous inspire so much envy, again, a little traditional protection certainly could not be a bad thing.


Let’s Lighten Up for Purim

At first glance, the Jewish calendar seems to be strewn with solemn sacred occasions.  Many holidays do command reverence in its most solemn forms, such as atonement.

Then there’s Purim.

Traditions vary, depending upon where in the Jewish world you are. It’s safe to say that Purim is triumphant, noisy, even rowdy, and brings a playful carnival atmosphere to this holiday which will be observed come sundown March 19-20, 2011.

One of the most universal Purim celebrations is the giving of  mishloach manot.  The Book of Esther—and Esther really is the heroine behind Purim—commands us to give gifts of food (or money for food) to the needy.  And, many people do more than this—friends and families exchange yummy gifts, too.  Baskets of cookies, especially the buttery poppy-seed treats known as “Hamantaschen”, are a Purim classic, and lots of other favorites find their way into Purim gifts. In this sense, we consider Queen Esther to be the grandmother of the modern-day “goody-bag’!

Our suggestion: in addition to snacks and sweets that will be gone before you can say, “baruch Mordecai” (“Blessed be Mordecai”), include a gorgeous, enduring piece of Alef Bet jewelry in your special Purim gift-baskets.

Our selection includes many small treasures, such as a bendel bracelet featuring the simple red “protection” cord, clasped by a delicate hamsa in sterling silver (our stock #: bendel-15a). Or maybe a dainty, sterling silver hamsa necklace with a Chai charm (our stock #: 905-18), or a gemstone bracelet— one of our popular Bat Mitzvah items, too. Lots to choose from, something sweet and lasting to celebrate a joyful Purim.

Bendel BraceletChamsa and Chai Necklace

Hamsa and Gemstone Bracelet

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