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Tajik Jewelry

Updated on February 11, 2018


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.”

All geometrical shapes begin with a single point; all numbers begin with one, and all of them simply different types of single units. Number one can also be thought of as a single point. Number one serves as a starting point for number two, a single point serves as starting point to a line.  Each of these elements in its original form is different from another, just as during the first moments of its existence, life has no distinct national characteristics; they appear only in the future. This is the base for the creation of jewelry.

Combination of unique elements leads to creation of symbols. Thus, a vertical image embodies an active start, while horizontal direction indicates a passive element. The first number of reality is three, the first figure - a triangle, all the subsequent numbers and figures are simply a combination of the previous units.  Jewelry plays a role of a link that randomly connects certain parts of the living space.

Attempts to unite the newly found solutions in metal, combined with the actual costume and representing a single entity, enjoyed a certain recognition and success. We know of several harmonious combinations of clothing made of white karbos, from the collection by artist and designer R. Zuderman.

The search for designers willing to collaborate on creating costume and jewelry ensembles continues. While the early designs of V. Ivanov and I. Ivannikova were performed in German silver, the later items were transferred to silver, which enhanced their artistic, aesthetic and material value. Using precious stones complements the overall value of the jewelry and enriches its inner meaning.

V. Ivanov and I. Ivannikova demonstrated their designs at the exhibition of Tajik designers and jewelers, sponsored by the Union of Artists of Tajikistan in the 1980s. Each of their artifacts reveals lofty skills, good taste, and deep knowledge of the history of the Tajik jewelry and ethnography.

Vitaly Ivanov came to Dushanbe in the late 70s. All his years of hard work and artistic research led him and I. Ivannikova to the creation of a specific collection of jewelry based the traditional Tajik ornaments. A jeweler’s vocation is not easy; it is very labor-intensive and requires a lot of knowledge and fine artistic taste. It is extremely difficult to find the right metal and stones to decorate the objects. There are, of course, other technical issues that jewelers face, while their hands and hearts yearn for the work and creativity. Overcoming all the difficulties, they produce highly diverse works of art. A cursory inspection of bracelets, bozubands, necklaces, and earrings designed by V. Ivanov and IM Ivannikova reveals strikingly elegant lines, subtle sense of color in the application of different stones such as coral and turquoise, and abundance of techniques, such as granulation, stamping, niello, and filigree.

It is well known that even prehistoric men, who lived on the territory of CentralAsia, produced primitive ornaments of bone, stone, and later of metal. Even in the ancient era, men longed to create beauty.

The art of jewelry making is one of the oldest forms of decorative arts, and one we have no right to forget. Resources must be dedicated to the research of the art of jewelry making. Unfortunately, in the 1980s this kind of art was not particularly popular. Ivanov and Ivannikova took the road of examining and selecting the best examples of ancient masters. This served as justification of their early work, which followed the surviving specimens of ancient jewelry. Over the years, their skills strengthened, and now they have their own, special style of execution. It is no coincidence that they were granted an order to create costume jewelry for the characters of the film “Today and Always” produced at the “Tajikfilm” studios by the director M. Kasymova.

 Unfortunately, in the early 1980s the fate of jewelry artists was not all that enviable. And here is why: during the city art exhibits, the works of many masters of decorative art were not displayed to their full advantage, thus making the customers’ interest very scarce. This especially concerns jewelry exhibits:  it was very hard to see the intricately made items behind the deep dark glass. Perhaps, that is why the demand was so low; a better marketing campaign would have stimulated the sales.  

An oriental proverb proclaims: “While at least one woman walks the earth, the art of jewelry will not die.” However, in the 1980s, the members of this rare and ancient profession became rather scarce.

At that time, the crucial question of revival of jewelry art was raised by masters who began to penetrate the secrets of this complex craft - H. Huseynova, I. Yakubov, V. Ivanov, I. Ivannikova. This small group of urban jewelers embarked on a difficult task of reviving the ancient craft, in which the history of the Tajik people, their traditions and culture intertwined.


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