Friday, April 27, 2012

Kazakh Tradition in Afghanistan

Antique Silver Turkoman Mountain Symbol Hair Ornament as Pendant

The Turkoman people comprise close to ten percent of the population of Afghanistan.  The Uzbeki and the Kazakh have developed their own silver and textile styles of fabricating the ancient symbols into modern fabrics and metals.  The Turkoman tribes such as the Teke, the Yomud and the Ersari who also reside in the Northern reaches of Afghanistan have their own ways of working in silver or fabrics.

The photo shows a piece of silver worked in the usual Turkoman way of having the front reflected on the back.  It is in the form of a tumar or pyramid shape, the symbolism of which is explained below.  The hollow silver pendants that hang from this piece that originally served as a veil or hair ornament also have a back piece that repeats the design on the front.  They form a rhombus, which is essentially the tumar reflected top to bottom instead of back to back.  These shapes have been established for over a thousand years among the people who came down from the Altai mountains onto the plains and steppes of Kazakhstan and Afghanistan.  This piece was created within that long tradition.  It dates from the early 1900s.  

The piece pictured above is one of a pair of Turkoman tenecir, ornaments worn on a head covering or in the hair, attached just above the ear at the temple. When worn as it is displayed on this page, the Turkoman tenecir becomes an elegant, obviously antique, handmade pendant symbolizing the mountain from which the tribe originated. Being beautifully worked in granulation on each side makes this a reversible piece of jewelry. On one side the silver is set with coral beads; on the opposite it is set with two shades of red glass beads or shards. The silver work is all original, but the metal neck chain has been added in recent times. Measurement: Length of chain is 22 inches. Ht, inc. attached symbols is 5 inches; width of pendant is 2.25 inches at base.

To purchase this item, see details HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chasing Bracelets in Hadhramaut, Yemen

Creating designs in metal by pushing the material into different levels and shapes as a form of decoration has been done since the Bronze Age.  When it is done delicately and the result is aesthetically pleasing, it is known as chasing.  These bracelets show how it is practiced in Hadhramaut:

Antique Yemen silver bracelets with rare Hadhramaut pierced and spiked motifs. Probably from the Hadhramaut region since it specialized in this Bedouin style related to the jewelry of Oman in design and techniques. 

Hadhramaut is near Oman, another country on the Arabian Gulf Coast. 

The tools that produced these intricately wrought silver bracelets are very simple, often handmade themselves. The silversmith employs tools for annealing or softening the hard coin silver, a hammer to flatten it and shape it around a dowel. Pliers and cutters are necessary to size and shape the pieces that will fit together. While the pieces are still flat, the piece of silver --still thick enough to be very sturdy for everyday wear in harsh living conditions -- is pierced, chased and embossed (repoussee) into the various patterns before the pieces are soldered together. The spikes, which are not sharp enough to cut, cover the soldered joint of the pieces. On the smooth inside piece of silver, a crease shapes the material to meet the outside where it is joined also by the spiked pattern. 

These were usually made in household shops by a family that handed down the traditional fabrication methods and the old motifs.  Whereas in Sana'a on the Western side of Yemen the silversmiths decorated their metal jewelry with filigree and granulation, on the Eastern side of the nation in Hadhramaut, they decorated their silver jewelry by piercing and chasing it.  

These were bought from a dealer in Yemen for my collection over ten years ago. 

These are in the original condition except for a few very small dimples. 

Measurements: Inside diameter = 7 cm; 2.75 inches
Outside diameter = 11 cm; 4.25 inches
Weight = (1) 100 gm; 3.5 ozs. (2) 93 gm; 3.3 ozs.

I respond promptly to inquiries; I accept lay-away plans for collectors.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chosen Ethnic Jewelry from Yemen

This pair of bridal dowry bracelets in the Mansouri style of Yemen was chosen from my own group of Yemen ethnic jewelry by a discriminating collector a few weeks ago:
This is a pair of old Yemen Mansouri style bracelets in typical silver alloy with tiny coral beads set in raised bezels.  Silver wire forms rosette petals arranged around a central group of silver granules forming a tiny floral design.  This is appliqued onto the metal background.  Beaded wire borders the top and bottom of the bracelets.  This Mansouri style fits with the rest of Yemeni jewelry by following the tradition of hinging the bracelet at one side of the diameter of the circular form and a hasp fastener on the opposite side.   The so-named Mansouri jewelry is distinct from the other traditional styles of Yemen jewelry such as the Sana’a Bawsani and the Hadhramaut jewelry from eastern Yemen.  Its chief difference is the content of the silver.  But it also lacks the cut-out patterns and spikes on the outside surface of the Hadhramaut bracelets and the delicate wire filigree and granulation that trace intricate motifs in the Bawsani style bracelets.  
These bracelets appear to be of the same kind of silver alloy that was used by Jewish silversmiths before the coin silver of the Maria Theresa thaler  became available, or they were made in a region where the thalers were not used for jewelry.  Some authorities claim that this style precedes the more sophisticated techniques and motifs of the Sana’a and Hadhramaut silversmiths.  Others say that it was made after the Jewish silversmiths left Yemen.  There appears to be very little information available on exactly who, where and when these were made.  We do know that they are old and fit into their own tradition, because enough pieces in this style survive in present collections.  In my own collection I have one other piece that is made from the same quality of silver and with similar motifs.  
These were probably made as bride wealth to be worn on the wedding day, because they were made as a pair, one for each wrist.  
Height: 3.4 cm; Inside diameter: 5.3 cm; weight of each bracelet: 90 grams.

Along with that pair of pieces from the bride wealth of a Yemen woman, this pair of more sophisticated bracelets from a different region of Yemen was also collected:
Antique signed bracelet by the Yemen Jewish silversmith and the signed bracelet's twin. Granulation and beaded wire form geometric motifs round the bracelet. The covering for the hasp is more delicate tracery with filigree wire and tiny granules. The signature is just on the inside of the fastener. If you cannot see it, request an enlargement of that part of the photo if you are considering a purchase. 
Such bracelets were created in the early 1900s by the Jewish silversmiths for the brides of Yemen.  As all the Jews departed for Israel in those early decades, they took the secrets of their fine silver filigree and granulation with them.  The bridal dowry bracelets were usually made in matched pairs one bracelet for each wrist of the bride.  If you could see a bride sitting at her wedding, first you would notice the load of jewelry around her neck and on her head which would have explained why she was sitting.  The next thing you would realize is that the pairs of bracelets on left and right wrist and along her arms, might have been needed for balance when she eventually stood up under the kilos of bride wealth that she was wearing.  
Published in Ornament Magazine Vol. 26, No. 4, 2003, p. 38. 
Inside diameter: 5.4 cm