Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turkoman Ersari Tribal Silver Jewelry

Some of the most elegant jewelry produced in the late 1800s to early 1900s came from the hands of the Ersari tribe silversmiths.  The traditional Turkoman symbols are more important to the Ersari craftsmen than the encrustation of the silver with multi-colored jewels such as pieces made in the Bukhara tribal tradition.  For example:

Antique Turkoman Tribal Silver Pendant Asik Ersari Design
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Antique silver Turkoman pendant called asik by the Turkoman. This plain ungilded silver with a certain cut of the gemstone is characteristic of the Ersari tribe of pre-1900, according to Dieter and Reinhold Schletzer, Old Silver Jewelry of the Turkoman. 

There are circular tracings for decorations along the raised section markers of the asik. The carnelian in the center is cut irregularly, slightly domed but baroque on its surface. The ruby red gemstones or glass? are incised with symbols of a crescent moon and stars. 

I assume these represent Moslem symbols, as the Turkoman people were not moon worshippers according to the history recorded by Messrs. Schletzer. The Turkmen honored ancestors, the mountains which were their original homeland, and the family. 

The asik seems heart-shaped to us, but to the Turkmen it suggests part of the female anatomy. It is a symbol for wife and mother to wear. 

This piece was collected in Afghanistan. The Ersari live in the northern regions of Afghanistan and wear such asik as this one. 

Note that the wire is only for holding the pendant for display. It is not a part of the piece. 

The piece is large, measuring 8.3 inches long and 5.5 inches wide 

This Ersari veil ornament shows the same understated elegance as the asik above: 

Antique Turkoman Silver Ersari Tribal Hair Ornament

This is an ornament that the Turkoman woman or Turkmen women wear attached to their braided hair. The ornament hangs from the back of the crown of the head when the dangles are on such long chains as this one. The shorter ornaments for the hair are sometimes attached to the hair just above each ear and are worn as pairs. This type is sometimes pinned to a head covering rather than to the hair. 

This tenecir, which is the Turkic language term for this ornament, is made in the typical Ersari tribal style of good silver and is in excellent condition for its age of over a hundred years. For the age of this style of work I refer you to Reinhold and Dieter Schletzer's work entitled Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman. 

The carnelian is the favorite gemstone of the Turkoman people. This particular gemstone is table cut or flat cut and was not perfect when it was set. This flaw did not bother the tribal mentality of that period of Central Asian history. In fact, if a silversmith made a flawless piece of jewelry, he might punch a small hole in it or purposely do slight damage to the piece so as not to tempt supernatural powers that might take revenge on him for his pride of work. 

However, I do not hesitate to recommend this beauty as a perfect addition to your Turkoman tribal silver collection. 

Measurements: 16 in (40.5 cm) long x 2.75 in (7 cm) wide

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A sampling:

For more information on these jewelry pieces from my collection, send your inquiry through the private email form above left.


  1. As always, a fascinating post, Anna. An what beauties the pieces are. I was also intrigued about the idea of "perfection" not being something sought in case the gods are angered. Navajo weavers traditionally always made a "mistake" in their pieces with the belief that only their gods were perfect and they didn't want to bring bad luck to the tribe. So many same beliefs in peoples loving continents away. Thanks for sharing you knowledge, Anna

  2. Thanks for sharing that information on the Navajo worldview being associated with that of the Turkmen. It was aeons ago that the Mongolian people spread as far and wide from the steppes of upper Mongolia into China, west into all Turkmenia, north to Russia and across Siberia and from there, drifting down to North and South America via the land bridge that once existed between Siberia and Alaska. Small world ;)

    1. Had to seem VERY big to them as they walked all that way (;