Actress Bianca Bai shows off her jewelry. Photo CFP
Many Chinese people believe that jewelry has health benefits, even though they understand that there is no scientific proof to back this up.
Although vendors generally do not hype the healing powers of jewelry when trying to make a sale, if you ask them, they are happy to talk about it.
The owner of the Yushiyin Jewelry Store in Wudaokou says that Chinese love to wear jewelry not just because of its shiny appearance. "After wearing a bracelet for long enough, you'll find your hands and wrist become tender and comfortable," said He Lin, the owner. "This is because it can smooth the acupuncture points on your wrists."
Zhang Yu, a teacher at the School of Jewelry of China University of Geosciences, said Chinese people have believed wearing jewelry is good for their health for thousands of years.
Zhang explained that human skin has the ability to absorb things, so it is possible that microelements like mineral substances hidden in jewelry could enter your body and boost your health.
"Yet it will be a rather long process for these substances to interact with the human body," she said, noting that the process is so long that it would take several years or even decades of constant wearing. Zhang also agreed with He that wearing accessories like pendants or bracelets could massage your acupuncture points.
Skepticism about 'magic'
However, Li Zhengqing, a doctor at Beijing Xizhihe TCM hospital is skeptical of these claims.
Massage normally requires heavy pressing and pushing on the body, and bracelets are rather small and light for that, he said.
While it may be that the jewelry has some impact on health, Li says there is no scientific evidence to prove it right now.
"One thing for sure is that if you get forged jewelry accessories that are made with glue or dyed with colors, your health would be affected after wearing it for a while," he warns. Even Zhang expresses some skepticism about jewelry's healing powers. "Despite this magic power, you cannot fully believe in it, because for sick people, the first thing you should do is go see a doctor, instead of wearing a bracelet."
Zhang suggested another reason why wearing jewelry might be beneficial. "Spiritually speaking, when you wear something like jewelry, you'll be in a good mood that eventually makes you feel pleasant and positive," she said.
"Although this feeling might not be restricted to jewelry but other accessories or clothing, jewelry has been a particular source of happiness to Chinese people from a historical and cultural perspective," Zhang said.
From the zodiac to feng shui to numerology, many people are able to believe and disbelieve in their effectiveness at the same time. The same is true in the case of jewelry. "Traditional beliefs that jewelry can benefit health can be found in some ancient books," says Zhang. "Although there's been no serious scientific experimentation to back up this belief, I tend to believe that it might be true."