turkmen tribal jewelry

turkmen tribal jewelry

Turkmen Jewelry (Turkoman; Turcoman; Turkman) Jewelry hails from a nomadic group of people who have lived for centuries in southwestern Central Asia and northeastern Iran. Located along the old Silk Road Trade Route that connects the East and the West, this region includes present-day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and parts of Kazakhstan and Afghanistan.

Turkmen Jewelry has a characteristically distinctive style consisting of large silver or metal pieces, regally crafted, and typically encrusted with carnelians or red glass beads set in raised bezels. The large size of Turkmen Jewelry pieces is said to represent the armor worn by ancient Turkmen women who fought alongside their men in battle, although this interpretation is in dispute. In addition to being visually beautiful, Turkmen Jewelry is intentionally constructed to also sound beautiful…hence the prolific attachments of bells, coins, and noisy dangles that clank and jangle with every movement.

While Turkmen Silver Jewelry is frequently Gold-washed (gilded), Gold itself is almost never used for the body of a piece. Detailing is meticulous, consisting of carefully incised patterns and tiny embossed plaques (medallions) fused to jewelry surfaces and conforming to the various tribal traditions. Twisted, coiled, and whipped silver wire designs are also prevalent…techniques which even today cannot be replicated by machine. Red is the most commonly used color for beads, usually consisting of carnelians or red glass. Russian or even Mongol influences are clearly evident in styling, especially among jewelries from the eastern territories, since much of that region was under Soviet rule until fairly recently.

Women are highly valued members of Turkmen society. In art and lore, they are always identified with life-giving forces, especially with water and water-associated creatures such as fish, salamanders, and frogs. In addition, the abundant jangling fringes on their jewelry looks and sounds like rain…another source of vital water that is considered quintessentially feminine. It is the custom for Turkmen women to surround their faces with profuse amounts of fringed jewelry, whether it is hanging from their temples or ears, on top of their heads, across their foreheads, attached to noses, in their hair, or even sewn directly onto their clothing, caps, and veils. The Turkmen are also among the few tribal people who embellish the backs of their bodies with jewelry just as lavishly as they do on the front. This enthusiasm for ornamentation is not just limited to humans. Turkmen decorate their horses and camels just as passionately as they do themselves, joyously adorning their livestock with elaborate and richly bejeweled trappings.

The variety of shape and design found in Turkmen Jewelry is astounding. Round and triangular shapes represent the feminine, whereas square and rectangular shapes symbolize the masculine. Diamond-shaped Doonbajik clasps and ornate square Gonjik (Gonjuk) pendants were often attached to cloaks or on long sashes worn as outer garments. A form unique to Turkmen Jewelry, the sophisticated Dagdan represents the sacred Dagdan tree to some, while others see a 2-headed eagle that faces opposite directions. Another is the Adamlyk, a stylized (anthropomorphic) female form that appears prolifically on Turkmen necklaces, headdresses, Tenechir (temple pendants) and earrings. Similarly, a sacred pentagonal shape, the Asmalyk was originally worn by Tribal men and is also prevalent in Turkmen textile designs. Other common forms found in the abundant array of Turkmen Tribal Jewelry include representations of frogs, birds, fish, bow and arrow, feather tufts, flowers, leaves, rams horns, hearts, hexagons, cylinders, crescents, rhomboids, tree of life motifs, and spheres.

This extraordinary Tribal Jewelry can be further subdivided into Turkmen subgroups and similar nearby traditions. Turkmen Jewelry


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