Tajik Jewelry

Tajik Jewelry

The history of the art of jewelry on the territory of Tajikistan dates back a few centuries, as evidenced by the archeological findings in the southern regions of the republic: from the burial mound and at the settlements of Takhti-Sangin, Ksirov, Dushanbe, Saksonahur, and Lyahsh.

A striking example of the ancient jewelry art of Central Asia is the well-known treasure of Oxus, found the Temple of Oxus (the Greek name of the Amu Darya treasure), discovered in the 19th century in the shallowed river. The contents of the treasure of Oxus display phenomenal level of professional skill, technical perfection, and refined taste.

Very significant discoveries were made in the northern parts of Tajikistan in the 4th-6th centuries: a fragment of hryvna (gold, coral) from Kurkata, findings of Kalay-Kahkaha, Penjikent, and the so-called Kalaibaland treasure of the 13th century. Ethnographic studies describe the importance and popularity of jewelry in the life of Tajik people, especially women. So far only one paper has been published on the subject, namely, “Tajik Jewelry” by ethnographer L. Chvyr; this publication has become a reference book for a wide circle, both in scientific and applied research areas of contemporary jewelry making.

While the ancient examples display more creative freedom in the jewelers’ choice of themes, artistic images and bold designs, the Middle Ages, especially the later years,  are characterized by moderation, laconic expression, , and simplified techniques. Colorful nsets are used only as decorations, but still carry a certain symbolic and magical meaning: turquoise – hope, purity, chastity, pearls – fertility, prosperity, etc.

Items of jewelry manufactured later are identified by larger sizes, the abundance of decorations, combined with a variety of techniques: grain filigree, stamping, forging, and others. However, lines are not always well-defined, the shapes are heavy, massive, replete with decorations; it is harder to come across fine jewelry, such as gold earrings, kafasi, made in Bukhara, held in the funds of the Museum of Ethnography of the Tajik Academy of Sciences.

Each adornment carried a supernatural and protective function, and indicated not only the social standing, but also age, ethnic type, and gender of its wearer. Decorative elements served as a kind of code, in which a deeper meaning of the product could be deciphered. Jewelry was especially useful been associated with the transition rites. Jewelry was primarily used for very special occasions, such as coronation, receiving a higher military rank, funerals, and weddings. Archeological excavations have proved that jewelry ensembles were specifically designed for a variety of life situations. Medieval ensembles can be seen only on the surviving monumental paintings, and some wedding ensembles created in the 18th-19th centuries survived in a distorted form. There are also several existing descriptions of collections of jewels that were worn to indicate changes in women’s lives (birth, funerals, etc).

Museum collections frequently contain separate detached components of jewelry ensembles; it is crucial to find and reunite such elements, not only for the sake of displaying them at the museum, but also to a large extent, for the in-depth study of their characteristics, for the further reconstruction and revival.

Work of artists and jewelers V. Ivanov and I. Ivannikova is a proven success in this direction. Designs manufactured by these jewelers enjoy popularity not only in Tajikistan, but also far outside of Tajikistan’s territory.

Deeply conscious of the artistic philosophy of the past, contemporary jewelers bring their understanding of the new era into the traditional national jewelry. Thanks to the efforts of artists, the jewelry ensembles are inherent in the art of jewelry. Losing connections with the origins of culture, wearing of items separately led to the breakdown of ensemble systems. Changing social factors led people to wear earrings as a separate unit, same with bracelets, necklaces, rings, in other words, items that were united before not only by an internal design, but also by their shape, elements, line decor, and technical features. Wedding ensembles made by V. Ivanov and I. Ivannikova launched a new tendency in traditional jewelry making that follows the national spirit and feeling.

Considering the laws of contemporary fashion, V. Ivanov and I. Ivannikova introduced original designs of bozuband amulets, pendants, earrings in a variety of directions and forms, as well as bracelets and necklaces. However, throughout their art, the idea of ensembles united by the rich content remains a key theme. None better than the creator himself understands his product; it is evident from what the artists themselves say about their work: “ensembles are based on certain principles of number and color symbols; for that reason, the entire complex of adornments should be viewed as a sum of three components: metal, stone, and master.”

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Dr. Elena Neva
Elena Neva is known worldwide for her expertise in Russian culture, her books and lectures on art history, and her knowledge of the  art and jewelry of ancient Asia and Tajikistan, where she was born. She has visited twenty-six countries, taught in Tajikistan, Israel, Russia, and America, and has lectured at some of the worlds finest universities, and now teaches at several schools and colleges in the Boston area, where she specializes in the Russian language and art history. Dr. Neva has recently had a new book published, Tajik Jewelry,  and is a has her own program on a local television network. Elena resides in Medford, Massachusetts. t. / f. (781)391-18-25m. 617-872-3807e. lenasu [at] verizon . netwebsite >>


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