How to Collect Antique Singing Bowls
It is very likely that you already have a singing bowl, maybe even two or three, and you are now seriously thinking about starting a collection. The problem is how and where to begin. This article describes what I believe to be the typical approach to collecting antique singing bowls…which for many, including myself, turns out to be rather random, and not necessarily the best. It is all too easy to make mistakes and buy bowls that you later want to replace. Hopefully this guide will help you to make the best possible bowl choices within your budget. If you are very new to antique singing bowls I recommend that you first read about The Singing Bowl Types
The First Bowl: The first purchase is often an impulsive spur-of-the-moment act after a brief but enchanting encounter with singing bowls at a friend’s house, a yoga class, or perhaps a stand at a Mind, Body and Spirit Festival. Interest may have been aroused by the intriguing words used to describe them ‘Tibetan Singing Bowls’ or perhaps, if they were old bowls, by their evident antiquity, as well as the fascinating and beautiful sounds they made when struck or played.
Singing bowls, individually or collectively, are very seductive. There’s something magical about their sound and the way it is produced. They are pleasantly tactile and responsive instruments that anyone can pick up and play, and that’s part of their appeal. And once you have played one and experienced its soothing sound, and felt its healing vibration, you are halfway to owning one. After experimenting a little and ringing a dozen or so you will find one that feels just right. Sometimes a bowl will speak directly to the heart, and you just know that it’s meant for you the minute you hold it and make it sing…like love at first sight. Such is the power of these amazing objects! If you have already acquired your first singing bowl, and you chose it yourself, the chances are this is a familiar story…one you might recognize as your own.
Many of those who own a singing bowl are content to have just a single example that they use for relaxation and meditation, and when not in use it makes an attractive and fascinating object to display in the home. I have yet to meet anyone who regretted buying their first singing bowl. For a few people ‘one bowl is just fine’ and they have no need of another, but the rest of us are seriously at risk of becoming collectors.
The Second and Subsequent Bowls: Once you have your first antique singing bowl you will almost certainly want another! At this early stage of the collecting cycle you will already have an appreciation of a singing bowl’s stunning harmonic tones, and you will be familiar with the immense pleasure and sense of wellbeing that you and others experience when playing it. This is sufficient to set the collecting ball rolling…but top quality bowls are expensive, and genuine antique singing bowls with a premium sound are few and far between. You are well advised to take your time and do a little research before parting with your money.
Most collections begin in a fairly random way; with new additions being purchased as and when the opportunity arises, and finances permit. You now have a choice. Do you leave it to chance, as most new to bowl collecting do, and casually build a random collection of favorites, or do you carefully plan your collection, focusing on specific bowl forms with a particular purpose in mind, such as healing or chakra balancing? Our own collection took the random path.
Whatever you decide, your early purchases are likely to be similar bowl types in different sizes and tones to contrast or compliment one another. They will most probably be Thadobati and Manipuri bowls as these are more readily available and span a wide price range. But as your bowl collection grows, and you meet other bowl keepers, you will probably refine your taste and start to look around at what else is available. It is certainly worth investigating other bowl forms as these amazing ancient musical instruments differ widely in their tonality and resonance as well as their appearance.
As a general rule I recommend quality over quantity every time. Looking back it would have been more sensible for us to have purchased fewer bowls, and instead focus our attention exclusively on the finest bowls available within our budget, as we later spent a lot of time and money replacing early purchases. We were fortunate indeed, in having our own ethnic art galleries in which to recycle our bowls as we refined our taste and became more knowledgeable.
There is another more practical reason for collecting top quality bowls. In the 40 years since we collected our first singing bowl they have become increasingly rare and prices have multiplied tenfold…making them a very sound long-term investment indeed. Antique bowls that once cost £50 ($63) now cost £500 ($626), while really rare large museum-quality specimens can fetch as much as £10,000 ($12,525)!