is a personal decoration piece dating back to the 17th century Japan. Itevolved from the purely functional to highly detailed and varied over a period of approximately 300 years.Roughly pronounced "netskeh" or "netski", the netsuke wasoriginally used as a toggle to keepitems, such as purses and tobacco pipes, from slipping off the cordhanging from a man's kimonosash. Put together, this ensembleacted as a sort of hip pouch, anecessity as the kimono had no pockets.Prior to the invention of thenetsuke, plant roots with toggleswere used rather than the muchfancier silk cord and carvednetsuke. The Japanese characters'ne' and 'suke' mean "root" and "tofasten"- hence the name of thisunique and beautiful item. As menof the middle and upper classeswore more intricately carvednetsuke, the netsuke developed areputation as a status symbol. Netsuke are prized by artappreciators the world over, with pre-Meiji Restoration (late 19th century)netsukebeing the most coveted. After this period, Japanese men began to adopt western dress and the netsuke went out of fashion. Care should be taken to ensure that one deals with a reputable art dealer, asreproductions are rampant and fairly easy to create. On the other hand, manyappreciators simply enjoy the many variations of and materials used for creatingnetsuke, and collect them for visual appeal as much as the history they are connectedto. Reproductions or modern interpretations are easy to find and can be obtained veryinexpensively.Genuine netsuke is typically made of ivory or wood. However, a variety of other materials have been used throughout history. These include ceramic, horn, bone,amber and whale's tooth, among others. A genuine pre-20th century netsuke can behad for as little as $100 or, depending upon the detail, time frame and name of theartist, $100,000 or more.