Headdresses are used throughout Ladakh, though the names for them and their shapes vary in different areas. They are typically put together from pieces of dark fabric or leather, on which long rows of turquoise are stitched. The turquoise stones, trade items formerly gotten from sources in China, Tibet, and the Khotan area of Central Asia, are now obtained from markets in India. Turquoise stones were also fabricated by goldsmiths who were able to produce the most highly valued gems from gold, silver, copper, glass, and saltpeter. The number of rows of turquoise stones also may vary in different areas.
Rows of turquoise are often enhanced by a prominent ga’u, an amulet box sewed onto the center of the headdress. The outfit is further beautified by adding separate segments of decorated cloth. The perak is fastened onto a hairpiece made out of woolen braids, and the whole headdress is held in place on the owner’s head by silver chains and stiff ear-flaps.
The perak traditionally signified the wealth of the mother, which was passed along to her daughter when she married and left home to live with her husband. The family would make additional headdresses for second and third daughters when they married. In central Ladakh, a traditional bride was outfitted in white bangles, amber jewelry, conch shells, a brocaded cape, embroidered shoes, silver thigh ornaments, and the headdress draped over her body. Aggarwal provides numerous pictures, including one of a bride dressed for her wedding.
The headdress indicates the rank and economic status of the wearer. During the earlier period of the monarchy, the queens in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, wore headdresses with nine rows of turquoise beads, while today a woman with seven rows in Leh has a lot of status. In the smaller towns, headdresses with five rows are marvels, and lower ranking women often have three-row peraks. The quality of the brooch worn in the center of the headdress is another indicator of relative status: the queens in the past had brooches of gold.