Which mala beads are best?

Purchasing mala beads is deeply personal. Mala beads are most commonly used as a tool to keep track of prayers, mantras or affirmations during a spiritual practice or as a meditation. They generally consist of 108 beads, plus sometimes a “guru” bead and a tassel, although they can come in many forms. While they originated in Eastern religions, their use has expanded around the world. If you’re considering purchasing a string of mala beads, DharmaObjects Tibetan Real Rosewood Meditation Beads are a great all-purpose starter. 

What to know before you buy mala beads

If you’re new to mala beads, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choices. Not only do you have to pick between 108, 54 and 27 beads per string, you’ll also find mala beads in stones and woods in every hue of the rainbow. But the good news is that there is no “wrong” choice when it comes to mala beads. Since they’re a meditation tool that you use to focus your mind on a repeated phrase, the main consideration when choosing a string of mala beads is that they make you feel good and make you want to use them. 


While it’s true that there’s no “wrong” mala, once you get started doing some research on them, you quickly learn that intent is important. Some believe that the gems, stones or wood beads that comprise the mala can help focus your intention. For example, if you envision using the mala for cultivating strength and clarity, some believe that a lava stone mala aids in that quest. If, on the other hand, you’re hoping to tap into your self-love and to expand your capacity to love others, some would recommend a green or pink stone mala, with crystals believed to support the heart chakra, such as rose quartz. The mala you choose is entirely up to you, and you can feel free to make your choice purely on aesthetics. However, if you find the thought that specific stones can help support your goals intriguing, there are a wealth of options available to you.

Length of desired meditation

While 108 beads are often considered standard, it’s possible to find mala beads in lengths of 54 and 27 beads. 27-bead malas are often used as bracelets, while 108-bead malas are usually long enough to be worn as necklaces. The number of beads, as well as the length of the mantra or affirmation you choose to repeat as you touch each bead, sets the length of your meditation. If you’re looking to keep things short, pick a short affirmation or prayer, and a bracelet-length 27-bead mala. If you are looking for a longer session with your mala, opt for a 108-bead mala. 


If you plan on wearing your mala, you may want to take the weight of the mala into account when choosing yours. A rosewood mala is a great wearable option that’s light and comfortable. If you like a stone mala, you’ll want to pay attention to the size of the individual beads, as they will contribute to the overall weight of the mala when worn. For wearable malas, look for beads that are 6 millimeters in size, as 8-millimeter beads and above can get heavy. If you intend only to carry them, any size is fine.

What to look for in a quality mala

Malas range from the mass-produced to the hand-strung, from the semiprecious stone to inexpensive wood and even engineered beads. They can also be strung on nylon or even metal wire or knotted. 

Handmade vs. machine made

When malas were first developed, they were made by hand, the beads strung one by one. While you can still find malas created in this way, you can expect to pay significantly more for malas created by artisans using the ancient hand-knotting techniques. 

Type of stringing

Whether malas are handmade or machine-made, they are strung in one of two ways: beads are either strung in a line and “free-floating” on their nylon or metal wire, or there is a knot between each bead (a “knotted” mala). While “free-floating” mala beads are strung together pretty tightly, they usually have a small bit of give between beads, so that as you move your fingers from one bead to the next, it’s possible to move the bead slightly. Some mala users find this satisfying, as it can be easier to keep track of which bead you’ve just touched. Knotted malas, on the other hand, aren’t slidable. Each bead is fixed in its place by a tight knot. One other thing to consider, however, is that when a “free-floating” mala’s nylon or wire snaps, all the beads may scatter. A snapped knotted mala’s beads will stay in place when only one knot breaks. 

How much you can expect to spend on mala beads

You can get an inexpensive, machine-strung mala for $10 or less. Expect to pay upward of $100 or more for a hand-strung, artisan mala. 

Mala bead FAQ

Are mala beads only for religious observances?

A. Mala beads were used for religious observances in the east where they originated, and are still used in Hinduism, Buddhism and other such faiths. However, their use has expanded to include meditative, nonreligious practices, since the act of keeping track of an affirmation or mantra can have mind-stilling qualities. Humans have been using beads for counting for millennia, as far back as the first abacus. So feel free to choose a mala for religious reasons or simply to keep track of affirmations for personal development. 

Can I wear my mala beads as jewelry?

A. Most mala beads are visually beautiful and appropriate for wearing as jewelry. Some people buy them only for that. Take note that as with any strung object, the more wear and tear it gets, the faster it will snap, so be careful with your mala.

What’s the best mala to buy?

Top mala beads

DharmaObjects Tibetan Real Rosewood Meditation Beads

DharmaObjects Tibetan Real Rosewood Meditation Beads 

What you need to know: Light enough to wear, with quality construction, you’ll get great use out of these all-purpose mala beads.

What you’ll love: Simple but beautiful, this rosewood mala will serve you well for a long time. It’s understated coloring makes it match with most outfits if you choose to wear these.

What you should consider: Not exactly eye-catching, this is not the mala to buy if you want a statement piece.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top mala beads for the money

Tulsi Mala Beads

Tulsi Mala Beads

What you need to know: This is a great set of inexpensive mala beads that are impressively sturdy for the price.

What you’ll love: You can’t beat the price.

What you should consider: If you’re looking for an eye-catching mala, this is not that. The tassel is small.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Modern Om Rainbow Mala

Modern Om Rainbow Mala 

What you need to know: If you’re looking for a splurge, this Modern Om Rainbow Mala is beautifully made and an eye-catching piece of jewelry in its own right.

What you’ll love: A sandalwood base for most of the beads keep the weight on these 8-millimeter beads manageable. They taper to a rainbow of gemstone beads. The tassel is replaced by a point of clear quartz. 

What you should consider: While these beads are beautiful, they’re pricier than many of the other options.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.