Time is Running Out
Premium quality antique singing bowls have always been rare and becoming harder to find. How much longer significant numbers of ancient singing bowls will continue to flow into the supply chain is anybody’s guess but the period of availability is more likely to be measured in years than decades. There are only so many true antiques left in the rural Himalayas. The easy large troves of old bowls have already been exhausted.
The increasing scarcity is coming at a time of heightened interest. More people are finding out about the wonderful qualities of singing bowls and tuning into their potentially healing sounds. Collecting singing bowls is an engaging pursuit – people who start with one find that really they’d be happier with a few. Some collectors gravitate up the quality chain desiring to fill in with not only more but better sound.
As supply diminishes naturally prices will move up to balance with demand. We are already seeing this in places. We are also seeing other trends as well. For a good decade, up until the mid teens slowdown in the Chinese economy, the price of industrial semi-precious metals were very high, especially copper. That pushed up the price paid at the village level for all old metallic objects. As a consequence many bowls made it into the marketplace that might have stayed on the back shelf. This plays into today’s rarity and has the effect of keeping prices high even as the intrinsic metal value declines.
We are already seeing the effect of higher prices and limited availability in the retail marketplace. There is a store on the high street in Glastonbury that long sold good quality antique singing bowls. I went in a couple of years ago the shop was full of new brass bowls with antique finishes. When I asked the owner about it he said that they could no longer get the good old meditation bowls. You can bet some of his experienced old customers are now looking elsewhere for new additions to their collections. Even in Kathmandu 90% of what is available are not antiques. Twenty years ago it was nothing but antiques.
One good thing about Himalayan singing bowls is that there are enough of them in existence to support a fairly large following of thousands of collectors located around the world. This is important because a functioning market requires more than just a few participants.
It is my belief that over time a secondary market for genuine antique singing bowls will develop as original supply dries up and interest and demand grows. Singing bowls will continue to be sold but the lack of fresh material from the Himalayas will mean that dealers will begin to look for supply in the US and Europe. The one way flow from Asia to the West will be transformed into something more complex, with many singing bowls for sale moving from first to second to third owners here.
Something that will be very helpful to this market is the development of scholarship around singing bowls, not only their health benefits but more objective information about their history and classification. There are a number of high integrity vendors of antique singing bowls who will all benefit from transparency.
With commonsense care the singing bowl you buy will last you a lifetime without any degradation of quality. Don’t be surprised if, twenty years down the road, the familiar friend you have been enjoying has actually increased in value, possibly substantially.