Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mountain as a Turkoman Motif

The triangular plaque with pendants is as prominent as the dome in the repertoire of the Turkoman silversmith.  The triangle is often backed with a piece with the same cut-out patterns of flora that the front plate has.  This two-layered hollow structure is very common in the best of the Turkoman jewelry pieces.  The photo here shows a good example of this kind of workmanship:

As you will note, the back and the front are almost identical.  But the space in between the two layers is open, as you see the red cloth background through either side.  

Many mountain symbols or *tumar* are made of rather thick, solid silver, often with gold applied to certain parts of the pattern inscribed on the front.  The back of the plate is left plain.  As in this example: 

In these side-by-side comparisons of items that came from the hands of Turkoman silversmiths, perhaps from different tribes, but all hold the same world view, and all express their spirituality with symbols of the mountain of their origins (tumar), the dome (gupba), the family (triple asik), the amuletic tube (bozbend) or the rectangular prayer box (galaj?).  In the case of the tumar/bozbend the mountain symbol and the amuletic tube  are combined for a spectacular piece such as that shown in this photo:

One of the serious studies of Turkoman culture, including the myths and symbols that express the mindset of the traditional Turkoman people, was done by Dieter and Reinhold Schlechter, Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman, 1983.   Copiously illustrated with drawings and photographs of the jewelry being worn by the people, as well as catalog photos from important collections.  It is a fascinating study of a culture that is in its vanishing stages.  

More information on many different examples of Turkoman jewelry from items for everyday wear and also items of museum quality can be found at


  1. I love your articles! They are so informative, thank you!

  2. Thank you, Lilly! And I admire very much your way of publicizing your vintage designer jewelry. Please stay in touch. If you ever set up a way of merchandizing ethnic adornment, including textiles, etc., just let me know, please. I did not know how extensive your network was!