Status symbols have certainly evolved over the centuries. While the wealthy now carry designer handbags and wear gold and diamonds, a few hundred yeas ago the wealthy (and pious) of northern Europe would have been more likely to be seen with prayer nuts on their rosaries or attached to their belts.
These intricate, elaborate boxwood carvings from the Middle Ages depicted biblical scenes in great detail on their interiors. At just a few inches in diameter, when closed they looked like carved nuts. They were highly prized works of art, and even now they fetch premium prices — one recently auctioned at Sotheby’s for over $200,000.