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What is Begleri?

Begleri (Greek: μπεγλέρι)

is a small skill toy consisting of one or more beads at either end of a short string or fine chain. The toy can be flipped and twirled around the fingers to perform tricks.

“For me, it’s more than just a skill toy: it’s an addiction of the best kind. After you pick up some moves, you’ll notice that you don’t even have to look at your hand while playing. This gives you the ability to really dive down into your thoughts and shut off the real world, even if only for a moment.”

Ilya Indrulinas

Begleri originated in Greece, and originally derived from the Greek rosary or komboloi, which serve the function of worry beads, and are often flipped around to pass the time or keep the hands busy. While komboloi have beads forming a closed circle, begleri beads are threaded on an open strand, usually in a symmetrical formation, with equal weighting at either end. Begleri come in many forms, usually consisting of semi-precious stone, wood, or metal beads. They can be similar in form to the percussion instrument kashaka/asalato, but are much smaller in size.

In recent years, begleri has grown in popularity outside of Greece, as a skill toy and everyday carry item. This has led to a proliferation of begleri designs and styles, using all manner of modern materials.  

A playable set of begleri can be made from a wide range of materials, in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Traditional begleri from Greece are often made from semi-precious stones, or materials such as animal bone or horn, which can be carved. However, these materials tend to be somewhat delicate and do not stand up well to hard play. The most common modern begleri in Greece, are made from small cylindrical metal beads, often aluminum, which are partially hollowed or recessed, which encloses the knot.  

Such beads are not readily available outside of Greece, leading players to experiment with other alternatives. A perfectly serviceable set can be made by stringing a handful of hex nuts (usually two to six, depending on the size and weight) together on a piece of paracord or braided string. Metal beads tend to be preferred due to their weight and durability. While the size, shape, and weight of begleri are generally a player preference, most sets tend to be within a conventional range of shapes (round or partially rounded without significant protrusions), sizes (generally from 15mm to 25mm in diameter), and weights (generally between 10g and 20g per bead). Beads outside of these ranges may be awkward for average players to handle. Light materials such as most plastics and woods can be used to make begleri, but are often given a metal core, since they are too light for the preference of many players on their own.

String length is a personal preference, and begleri players use a variety of lengths. However, different lengths of string tend to make certain tricks, transitions, or styles of play either easier or harder because of the amount of string required to wrap around the fingers, or to span the width of different numbers of fingers. Some tricks may be impossible with a string that is too long or too short. There appear to be two emerging “standards” in string length, which players have been referring to as the “short game” and the “long game”.

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