After diving into research on the Turkic cultures for the 3 Minute Ethnography, I realized I really needed to devote a separate blog on their incredible jewelry.
Turkmen silver jewelry is amazing. It’s huge. It’s decadent. And it’s wrought with symbolism.
So next time you’re at a dance convention sorting through goodies to embellish your costume with, or if you’re at a flea market and find some amazing tassels to drape your curtains with, you’ll have a much better appreciation for what you’re looking at.
So you already know now that Turkic tradition brandishes different dressing styles for the passage of one stage of life to another. The jewelry embellishes those stages. The jewelry of young women is etched with designs that promote health, love and fertility. And the amount of jewelry starts piling on even more as she approaches marriagable age – I’m sorry, but I’m just picturing a whole new image of the “Old Maid” who never marries and is bent over with the weight of silver jewelry that her family kept making for her. Someone sketch me a graphic of what that would look like and I’ll insert it here:
Where were we? Ah yes, after bearing her first children, the symbolism carved into her jewelry changes to ward off evil and illness, and the husband and kids start to get their own bits and baubles too.
For example this cuff bracelet from Tribal Muse – the style of design is called Tekke jewelry, which usually has a gold guilded contrast to the silver. It features the carnelian stone which is commonly used in Turkmen jewelry and is thought to protect its wearer from illness and harm. This method of bezeled carnelian is a common protection against the evil eye. The etchings are claws, symbols to “protect and invigorate” its wearer. (Tribal Muse). So this bracelet is pretty much the closest thing us ladies can get to feeling like Wonder Woman, am I right?
Here’s another great example of symbolism. This horse pendant is in the Yomut style, which is typically flambuoyant in design, beads, and etchings. We’ve got a horse -which we all know was one of the most important animals in Turkic culture (you don’t know? Oh brother – go back and read the Ethnography here!) We’ve got carnelian and turquoise, which symbolised purity and health. We’ve got leaves and flowers galore – super common emblems in the “growth of human existence” (The Met Museum) and common in men’s clothing and jewelry. And all the little teardrop shaped bezels for the stones are more of the handy evil-eye protection. This here is a pendant for a man’s man of the Turkic tribes!
And the last sample that we’ll talk about is from the Ersoli. This is where most of our fabulous jingly dangly chains come from. The choker above is made to protect the delicate throat, wrought with evil-eye protection as well as designed to draw attention to its wearer. Perhaps a young lady looking to attract a young man? No chance of not being noticed in this one, gals! Love it.
For me, I was drawn into the discussion of Turkmen jewelry actually by a set of tassels I picked up at a convention from Moonlight Diva.
I touched base with Helga from Neemahe Tribal, who informed me:
“I double checked with my Afghan connection in Pakistan, and we can tell you that tassels are worn by ladies for special occasions and are also used to decorate horses and for houses interior decor. They are made in Central Asia and every tribe and every region has their own style of making them.”
Ok so here’s the bad news:
In the 1960s during the Soviet’s big plan to make everyone conform to a national standard that I mentioned in the ethnography, they actually banned folks from making traditional Turkmen jewelry. Dick move, guys. In 1991 after gaining independence, it was a bit too late, and a lot of the traditions had already been lost. Centuries of skilled craftmanship passed down only to hit a generation gap. So today it’s really hard to find authentic vintage Turkmen silver pieces and there are a lot of replicas. That being said, the newer-made replicas are lighter weight and much more affordable, so don’t snub it too quickly. Just be aware of what you’re looking at before you drop buckets of cash on something that might not be quite as valuable as the original silver pieces, like these in the Met Museum:
All of the above photos are from the Met Museum of Turkoman jewelry they have in their collections. Clockwise from the top left: Collar stud ; Cordiform pendant, Amulet holder, Crown, Pectoral ornament, Bracelets (All are made with silver, carnelians, turquoise, and glass beads)
Where you can score some Turkmen jewelry for your own collection:
Tribal Muse carries a range of tribal jewelry and has them conveniently sorted into regions from where they come. Their Turkmen/Turkoman jewelry includes vintage and antique, museum-quality as well as newer replicas. www.tribalmuse.com
Neemahe Tribal is based in Europe and has several great Turkoman pieces in her store as well as items she has created from Turkoman pieces. They’re closed for their summer holiday for a couple of weeks right now but you can see some of their goodies on Facebook.
The Red Camel has a long history of importing/exporting tribal goods. They’re site divides items into the type o jewelry (necklace, rings, etc) so you can find what you’re looking for or you can do a handy-dandy search for Turkoman or Turkmen to narrow it down. They have a ton of DIY items like buttons and baubles and chain for anyone looking to spice up their fashion, accessories, home decor, or costumes! www.redcamel.net
Thanks for stopping by. Remember as always to share comments here or on Facebook or Instagram – show me your favorite Turkoman/Turkmen treasures! Corrections are always welcome as I’m only able to scratch the surface of this topic. This not a paid or sponsored blog.