Greek worrybeads in walnut.
A "Komboloi" ( Worrybeads ) Primer:
Travel through a Greek village, and one one of the most picturesque sights will be men gathered at the local "kefenion", talking politics over coffee, while working their komboloi. Part prayer beads, part fidget toy, the origin of this most Greek object remains a mystery. Some say the komboloi are mimics of Turkish prayer bead strands. Others believe that during the Turkish occupation, Greeks were forbidden from shaking hands and the beads were intended as a reminder not to shake hands. Perhaps the most widely believed theory is that komboloi are derived from knotted prayer strands (komboskini) used by Greek Orthodox monks.
Komboloi used to be the province of older, traditional minded men. Recently, however, komboloi have become a fashion accessory to modern young Greek men, and even some women. Komboloi are composed of sixteen to twenty beads strung together and tied off with a single bead and a tassel. Beads come in many varieties, including plastic, ceramic, bone, glass, amber and coral. The beads are usually strung on leather, string or fine metal chain. Perhaps the most striking komboloi are those with beads made from cobalt blue glass, whick wards off the "evil eye". Komboloi indeed come in many varieties that vary in price from a few dollars to a thousand dollars or more, depending on the materials used.
Whether you first notice komboloi in a Greek's hand or in one of the colorful displays at souvenir shops in Greece, they are bound to be strangely compelling. Once you touch them , and feel the smooth beads sliding through your fingers, you may find yourself hooked.