Turkmen Are Many
The beauty of Turkmen jewelry engages the imagination – as well as a curiosity to know exactly how all this lavishness came about.
While large size is the hallmark of Turkmen tribal jewelry, many nuances distinguish the different tribal origins of individual pieces.
The Turkmen comprise more than 20 distinct tribal groups. Of these, the most celebrated are the Teke (Tekke), Ersari, Yomut, Choudur, and Saryk – so celebrated that they are memorialized on today’s Turkmenistan Flag, represented by 5 stars and 5 respective carpet designs.
Tekke Turkmen Jewelry
To many people, Tekke (Teke) is the archetypal form of Turkmen tribal jewelry. It is characterized by a thin layer of gold-wash (gilding) that highlights symbolic designs on an underlying silver base. Teke pieces are almost always studded with oval-shaped, vibrant-red carnelian or glass beads set in raised bezels.
Tekke jewelry is highly artistic, with stylized birds, flames and spiritual creatures etched into the gold-highlighted silver surface. Borders of rams horns, bird heads, or trefoil motifs frequently run along one or more edges, with long clattering chain-dangles hanging below to make a wonderful sound with movement.
Teke jewelry is usually constructed in 3 dimensions, with 2 silver layers (front and back) separated by a hollow space in between. Given the enormous size of Turkmen jewelry, this technique allows for the piece to be more light weight and easier to wear than if it were completely solid.
Teke Turkmen jewelry is extraordinarily beautiful, and highly prized by collectors. It is one of my absolute favorites.
Ersari Turkmen Jewelry
In contrast to the ornate Tekke flourishes, the jewelry of the Ersari Turkmen is elegantly understated – at least by Turkmen standards. It is still grandiose, but with a more subdued surface treatment, which generally consists of a single or 2 intersecting lines spanning the entire piece. The remainder is left unadorned, except, of course for the obligatory Turkmen eye-shaped beads and dangles.
In many ways, making Ersari Turkmen jewelry is an extremely challenging achievement. It has an unforgiving artistry, relying as much on the spaces between the design elements as on the elements themselves. Balance and precision are a must. Each line and bead is meaningful and precise.
While some less refined Ersari pieces have endured, old Ersari Turkmen jewelry pieces with quality construction are getting harder and harder to find. Whenever my Turkmen friends in Central Asia find some for me, I post them on my Tribal Muse websites to show.
Yomut Turkmen Jewelry
If Ersari jewelry is understated, then Yomut Turkmen jewelry is over the top. This is the most ornate and lavish of all the Turkmen tribal jewelry traditions – and the most captivating. It is easy to stare at Yomut pieces, wondering how in the world these people made such extraordinary jewelry using the simplest of tools. I still do not know how it was possible for them to do it.
But they did. Yomut jewelry, like other Turkmen jewelry is big, bold, and laden with symbolic cultural meaning. But it goes beyond that. Way beyond that.
Yomut Turkmen jewelry pulls out all the stops. In its most flamboyant form, a piece of Yomut jewelry may be gilded entirely with gold, embossed, studded with multi-colored beads, and haphazardly adorned with numerous decorative plaques and medallions fused to the surface.
Of course not all Yomut pieces are quite so elaborate. Some may have only one or two of those attributes, the most notable being the fused decorative plaques or stylized rams horns. Regardless, Yomut Turkmen tribal jewelry is extremely collectible, and breathtakingly beautiful.
If Turkmen jewelry intrigues you as much as it intrigues me, then my next blog entry may be enticing. In Part III of this series, I explore cultural symbolism as seen through the lens of Turkmen tribal jewelry – one of my favorite topics!
Please join me for the next installment – and anytime to share your comments and experiences. I would love to hear from you.
What is Tribal Muse?
TURKMEN JEWELRY – Big Tribal Dreams Legacy – PART 1
This is the First of a 4-part series on Turkmen (Turkoman) Tribal Jewelry.
When Bigger is Better.
If you like large expressive jewelry, then Turkmen (Turkoman) jewelry may be just what you are looking for. Jewelry does not get much bigger than this – or more beautiful.
Despite its imposing size, when properly worn, Turkmen jewelry literally covers the body – both the front and back, including the head, arms, and fingers.
Some say that the large size of Turkmen jewelry is a tribute to the armor worn by Turkmen women who fought alongside their men in battle in earlier times.
Regardless of origin, Turkmen jewelry is magnificent, and its notorious size only makes it more magnificent.
Turkmen? Who are the Turkmen?
The Turkmen are a tribal people who have lived in the harsh steppes of present-day Turkmenistan and neighboring Central Asian countries for thousands of years. This vast terrain can be inhospitable, requiring them to relocate several times a year in search of green pastures for their animals.
Nomadic pastoralists and traders, the Turkmen lived in regions visited by countless merchants who traveled the old Silk Road – a network of trade routes connecting the East and West. As a result, they enjoyed a steady influx of ideas and goods from far-and-wide, developing a surprisingly urban sophistication in their own arts and crafts.
Centuries of Artistry.
Jewelry-makers were men (zergers) of high prestige, while women produced the bead-work and were also highly regarded. Skills were passed down from father to son over hundreds of years, resulting in clans of master jewelry-makers whose artistry became more perfected with each generation.
Old Turkmen workmanship to this day is recognized for its superb quality and detail. Unfortunately, in the 1960’s, the Soviets banned jewelers from making traditional Turkmen jewelry. When independence arrived in 1991, however, many of these skills had become forgotten or lost – only a few Turkmen families remain who retained their family’s time-honored abilities.
Although the Turkmen were prolific consumers of jewelry, old Turkmen jewelry (pre-1960 and earlier) is getting harder and harder find. Many had to sell their treasures long ago to support themselves during difficult times. Though intriguing, today’s replicas are just not the same – unless of course made by one of the remaining Turkmen zerger families.
Turkmen Jewelry – Next Up.
Turkmen Jewelry Part 2 explores more of the Turkmen jewelry legacy, including how to identify jewelry from the different Turkmen tribes.
Any Turkmen Thoughts?
Any thoughts or experiences with Turkmen jewelry or culture? I’d love to hear about them in your comments.
Southwestern Native American tribal jewelry is synonymous with quality – and rightfully so.
Navajo Jewelry – Southwestern Treasure
Perhaps the most celebrated of all Native American Jewelry is that of the Navajo tribe, with its boldly inscribed silverwork and generously-proportioned nuggets of locally-mined Turquoise. These wonderful pieces are often of impressive size, with large pendants hanging from one or more beaded strands.
Precision Among the Santo Domingo Native Americans
Kewa Pueblo heishi is distinguished by its smooth feel when you run it through the fingers. This is because Pueblo carvers buff the outside surfaces of each bead against a turning wheel, shaving away any barbs or irregularities until only a smooth surface remains. Some say that today’s Kewa Pueblo (Santo Domino) Indian Jewelry is the most refined of all the Native American Tribal Jewelry traditions.
The Zuni Bring Needlepoint to Jewelry
Meticulously made Zuni Jewelry contains small lozenge-shaped beads arranged in delicate-looking designs, sometimes called “needlepoint.” Silver usually plays a secondary role, since the Zuni prefer working with stone or shell to create patterns that mimic those found in nature.
Zuni jewelry is relatively light-weight and painstakingly crafted. The Zuni also produce hand-carved stone animal fetishes and superb channel inlay jewelry.
Elusive Beauty – Hopi Jewelry
Although the Hopi are among the oldest makers of Native American tribal jewelry in Northern America, they are comparative newcomers to the contemporary Indian tribal jewelry market. Recognized for their precise overlay technique, Hopi jewelry is handcrafted by fusing 2 pieces of silver together so that a cut-out design appears in contrasted relief. Their jewelry is often difficult to find since fewer pieces are made.
Watch Out for Imitations
Since 1999, it is illegal in the USA to claim that a piece of jewelry is Native American Indian Jewelry when it is not. That is why all the Native American Tribal Jewelry pieces on Tribal Muse are certified. Similar-looking pieces that are not so certified are identified as “Southwestern Jewelry” in their descriptions, and not as Native American Indian Jewelry.
Thinking About Native American Jewelry?
I would love to know your experiences with Native American tribal jewelry and my blog. Share a comment or send an email anytime.
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What Do You Think Of?
Most people probably visualize lots of ornate silver with turquoise when they think about Native American tribal jewelry. Surprisingly, North American Indian artisans did not start using this style until the 1800’s when they learned it from the Spaniards. It was not initially Native American at all, even though today many Indian tribal jewelry artisans fully embrace it.
Native Americans certainly wore jewelry before the arrival of the Europeans. In alignment with nature, they used the natural materials to make meaningful ornaments and beads.
How Did They Do That?
With their primitive tools, the process was a pain staking and time-consuming process. They meticulously handcrafted each bead from antler, shell, horn, bone, quills, feathers, claws, teeth, wood, and stone. These components provided the wearer with a spiritual connection to nature – and spirituality is a defining characteristic of all Native American cultures.
Except for the unique copper jewelry of the Great Lakes region, most of this early Native American tribal jewelry did not survive. Only a few isolated stone beads remain.
Trade Changed Everything.
Things changed when the Europeans arrived. They brought trade with them – and trade meant a steady supply of colorful, uniform, and plentiful glass beads. Native American crafts of all kinds- especially textiles and tribal jewelry suddenly acquired a new aesthetic.
Despite these changes, Native American artisans continued to integrate traditional symbols into their work. The exact symbolic meaning varied from tribe to tribe, but is enlightening nonetheless.
What Does It All Mean?
For example, the bear was considered a cosmic guardian and fierce protector by many tribes people. Birds carried prayers to heaven – especially the spirit bird depicted in flight. Kokopeli playing a flute assured the tribe of crops and babies. The three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – gave both spiritual and physical nourishment. These are just a few of the repeating symbols that continue to embellish Native American tribal jewelry even today.
NEXT: Some Native American Jewelry Traditions in North America Today
Send your comments and suggestions…I would love to hear from you!
Andrea @ Tribal Muse www.tribalmuse.com
Turquoise is one of the most prevalent stones used in Native American jewelry. Dating back to thousands of years ago, Native American tribes mined turquoise stones as they believed that it was a sacred stone. They designed masks and other accessories to decorate themselves with this amazing stone. In the 19th century, Spaniards taught Navajo American Indians to construct the turquoise and silver jewelry that remains their trademark today.
The color of turquoise, to the Navajo tribe, symbolized luck, happiness and health. These qualities led to the use of turquoise in many different aspects of Native American life for attracting luck and good fortune. Simple beads dating from around 7,000 BCE are among the first forms of jewelry found in the archaeological record from any Native American tribe. Originally, these beads were made out of shells or rocks. Over time, colorful stones and ornate construction gained favor, especially for tribal celebrations. Even during combat, Native American warriors wore impressive jewelry to show their superiority to the other tribes.
If you are looking to purchase certified Native American Indian Jewelry in Turquoise and Silver, visit us at TribalMuse.com. Our Jewelry was handcrafted by Navajo, Santo Domingo, and Zuni silversmiths. The artisan’s Hallmark (stylized signature) is on each piece. You might like our Southwestern Jewelry too.
The Inca people are known for their crafting and jewelry making according to archaeologists. It has been found that countless examples of their intricate work have been found, bought and sold. The types of Peruvian jewelry include earrings, necklaces, pendants, nose rings, bangles and chest aprons. Here are a few facts about Peruvian jewelry.
- Materials – The primary metal of Peruvian jewelry is gold. However, leather, gemstones and feathers were also use in their accessory pieces. Ornate pieces of gold, such as chest plates and crowns were also created at this time to symbolize wealth.
- Wear – Usually, Incas of high class were the main wearers of the jewelry. However, over time, there was an influx of pieces worn by lower class people for special religious occasions or in times of war to reflect their superior status over the enemy.
- Purchase – At this time it is becoming more and more difficult to find pieces of Peruvian jewelry. However, the trend of tribal inspired pieces continues to grow.
Are you looking to purchase Peruvian Jewelry? Check out TribalMuse.com, for the best selection possible at the most affordable prices. The items sold are all fair-trade and purchased to support local communities in Peru. Shop today to choose the historical piece of tribal jewelry you’ve been looking for!
What is Jewelry Patina?
It is the result of a natural oxidation process. Metals susceptible to patina formation usually contain some copper or iron.
The Array of Patina Colors Might Surprise You.
Patina can appear in a wide variety of colors, including red, brown, black, grey, blue, orange, purple, pink, beige and green. Here is are a few examples of some of the patina color out there, courtesy of Bronzeworks Precious Metal in Australia:
Oh Shiny! Why Not Remove Patina?
Surprisingly, patina acts as a protective layer, shielding the metal below against exposure and corrosion.
Patina is also intriguingly beautiful and if you remove it, it is gone forever. It is prized by collectors and those who love old jewelry as testimony to years of loving wear and to unknown experiences that went before.
Many manufacturers today try to duplicate the look patina on new jewelry. Even though many of these pieces are very pretty, it is just not the same as the real thing.
Patina is a gift of time…and only the passage of time can create it.
Patina Seems to Say “Leave Me Alone!”
At Tribal Muse we never remove patina, since to remove it would change not only the value, but also the character of a piece. Some of our items have been rub-polished to bring out their luster, without altering the presence of patination.
Unlike tarnish, patina is embedded into the upper layers of the metal itself, darkening the color through multiple molecular layers without destroying them. To eliminate all of the patina is a challenge, and limits the attraction of old pieces.
Usually, only a chemical bath can completely remove patina to result in a high-polish, if at all. Chemical treatments are not good for any jewelry, and are never recommended regardless of the age of a piece. It can make jewelry brittle and susceptible to other forms of deterioration down the road.
Although you might find some high-polish old jewelry on our website, the acid-cleaning occurred at the location of origin before arriving at Tribal Muse.
Here are a few images of our high-polish vintage jewelry:
High-Polish Chemically Cleaned Jewelry is still beautiful; it just has a different look.
Photographing Patina is a Challenge.
True patina often does not photograph well because of its natural sheen. In images, jewelry pieces with significant patina may appear lighter than they are to the naked eye. That is why it is a good idea to read the full descriptions whenever and where ever you buy old or vintage Tribal Jewelry to avoid patina surprises.
What’s What with Patina Identification?
At Tribal Muse, we identify the level of age patinas as follows:
Mild = Visible patina, may be rub-polished
Warm = Moderate dark patina, with a more noticeable darkening of the metal
Rich = Very dark patina, with heavy darkening of metal. May include verdigris
Here’s Looking at You, Patina.
Below are some photos of what the different patinas look like on some of the jewelry at Tribal Muse. They are arranged by increasing level of patination, including Mild, Warm, and Rich.
If you love old and vintage things, once you see a piece of jewelry with genuine patina, it is hard to forget it. You might even be overcome with an inexplicable desire to touch it, hold it, and wonder at who wore it.
There is a definite attraction that pulls people to this jewelry with a deep sense of pleasure and appreciation. Perhaps that is why so much new jewelry has simulated patina applied. It still looks good, but it is not the same as the real thing.
Some Jewelry with Applied Patina:
That is not to say anything against high-polish jewelry or jewelry with a painted patina. Many of these pieces are truly beautiful, and often more in keeping with fashion industry trends.
Regardless of choice, both old and new patinated jewelry is a welcome addition to any accessory wardrobe (although I must confess to a personal preference…I bet you can guess which one!)
You and Patina?
What kind of Patina Jewelry do you have – or would you like to have?
Tell us in the Comments section, we’d love to know what you think.
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Belt it Out!
The Belt is both a functional accessory and a decorative statement piece. For centuries, the style of belt could imply a specific status, event, and affiliation. For example, the women of the nomadic Kuchi tribe of Central Asia wear decorative belts not only to secure their garments, but also as a repository for coin wealth.
Dancers add tassels and various flourishes to accentuate the movements of the dance, and add allure. In various cultures, men wear elaborate buckles to affiliate with certain groups
and announce their power to others.
In some tribes, brides received richly embellished belts to wear on their wedding day. These belts were cherished for their lifetimes, and passed on to daughters through the generations.
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Kuchi Tribal Jewelry
If you love Tribal Jewelry, then you are probably already familiar with Kuchi Jewelry…if not, then you are in for a treat. Of all the different tribal traditions, Kuchi Jewelry is among the most exuberant, joyful, and eclectic of them all. Their festive pieces are filled with color and sound, with mounds of dangling charms and bells clattering together with every movement.
What better place to start an exploration of Tribal Jewelry Styles than with the vibrant jewelry of the Kuchi.
Who are the Kuchi?
The Kuchi (Kochi, Koochi) are a nomadic tribe who have lived along the old Silk Road Trade Routes in Central Asia for an estimated 3000 years. Not surprisingly, their name comes from the Persian word meaning “Wanderer.” Much of the terrain in this part of the world is rugged and not easily navigated, but the Kuchi became masters at trekking, even to the remotest areas. They were the primary merchants serving the people of Central Asia, bringing needed goods to the sparse settlements that were scattered at considerable distances from one another.
People literally relied on the Kuchi for their very survival. They supplied vital commodities such as meat, certain textiles, and livestock which would otherwise have been unavailable. At one time, The Kuchi held a monopoly on the camel trade…if you wanted to buy a camel, you had to find a Kuchi to sell you one! Sadly, their numbers as dwindling as a result of international turmoil and alternative transport options for trade.
Is it Kuchi or Kutch?
At first impression, it is easy to confuse the Kuchi tribe with the people of Kutch (Kachchh) in western India. The word “Kutch” in India translates to “dry” or “arid,” since Kutch, India sits in a dry dessert. True, there are many such similarities between Kuchi and Kutch jewelry styles, but similarities are common throughout Central Asia and India. Nevertheless, there could well have been some idea-sharing between the two groups, since the Kuchi were prolific wanderers who migrated over immense distances. For purposes here, though, the Kuchi and the people of Kutch are treated as separate tribes. More on the wonderful tribes of India in later posts…much more!
When the Kuchi Go to Town
Over the centuries, Central Asia has had its fair share of different rulers – each with a specific mandate on how people should live their lives. The Kuchi, however, managed to retain their own distinct traditions, primarily because of their nomadic lifestyle and valued status as traders. The Kuchi social group was very friendly and interactive, with frequent celebrations that included singing and dancing.
As the primary suppliers of meat, the Kuchi had large herds of livestock to maintain…a task generally falling to the men, requiring them to be gone from camp for long periods of time. While the men were away, the Kuchi women assumed the tribe’s business of bartering and negotiating with locals. Enjoying freedoms not seen elsewhere, Kuchi women regularly interacted with both men and women for trade. It was not unusual for them to wander publicly and unhindered into towns, often dressed in bright colors with only a modified veil instead of full cover.
Kuchi Tribal Jewelry – Daily Exuberance
Kuchi Tribal Jewelry reflects this freedom in its style, and combines it with various the influences from the many different cultures visited while traveling. The head, the hands, the ankles…there was virtually no part of the body that was left uncovered with some form of Kuchi Jewelry.
Since many of these pieces were intended to be worn daily under very rough conditions, they were often boldly crafted of sturdy metal so as to withstand a rigorous nomadic lifestyle. This may explain why so many old Kuchi pieces are still available today and in relatively good condition even after decades of rugged wear.
Even though Headpieces did not generally cover the entire head, they were flamboyant to be sure. Headpieces were worn spanning the forehead, with dangles and small pendants hanging from the bottom edge to frame the face. Large jangling earrings in a variety of shapes adorned the ears. Nose Rings with or without chains were worn daily or to special events only, as were large studded hair clips and barrettes.
Around the Neck
Necklaces, Pendants, Amulets, Coins, Beaded Fringes…just about any colorful and jangly piece of jewelry could be worn around the neck. On any given day, a headpiece might also double as a necklace, and vice versa.
A few word about the more eclectic necklace designs…Many Kuchi Tribal Necklaces are breathtakingly gorgeous even by today’s standards. Symmetry and consistency were not always a requirement, however. It was often the wearer’s personal sense of exuberance combined with available materials that ultimately determined the form. Many Kuchi Necklaces might have additional attachments or new alterations to meet the whims of each successive owner. While these necklaces might not fit contemporary design criteria, as spirited tribal jewelry they are flawless.
The Arms and Hands
Practical as well as beautiful, mountains of ornate bracelets adorned both the upper and lower arms. Many were long, extending high up from the wrist to protect against injury while working. Cuffs were often secured with a pin-hinge clasp to prevent them from falling off during the rugged activities of the nomadic Kuchi woman’s daily life.
Besides being practical, Jewelry Belts were celebration items, often associated with weddings. Today, Kuchi handmade beaded, embroidered, and jangling belts are a mainstay of dance troupes and tribal aficionados. Also common, were pendants and amulets that tied at the waist or buttoned to a bodice.
At the Feet
Jangling anklets were a beloved Kuchi accessories. They came in a variety of styles and shapes – hollow anklets with jangles, chain-linked anklets with bells, and cuff style anklets, with or without clasps. Anklets were such a popular item, that even the camels wore them, clanging through the high desserts with every step.
Who wears Kuchi Jewelry besides the Kuchi?
Kuchi Tribal Jewelry is a favorite of belly dancers, theater people, and anyone wanting to make an undeniably tribal statement. Not only is it just plain fun to wear, but the very act of putting on Kuchi Jewelry somehow seems transporting to a different time and place. The weight of it, the sparkle of it, and the sound of it conjure up pleasing images of a confident Kuchi woman heading into a village town for all to see.
Why do you love Kuchi Jewelry? Tell us in the comments section, we would love to hear from you!
So sorry, the Coupon Code for April 2015 has expired – Please see more recent blog posts and your Tribal Muse subscriber emails for any active Coupons that we have available. Many thanks, Andrea @ Tribal Muse.
There is something about Tribal Jewelry that speaks to just about all of us. Not many things are common to all cultures, but wearing jewelry seems to be one of them. It does not matter if you are talking about prehistory or present times…people like to wear jewelry.
Just what is Tribal Jewelry?
Tribal Jewelry refers to handcrafted jewelry pieces that are made and worn by indigenous people, and not mass produced for sale to others. Tribal Jewelry often holds special meaning and significance to the people making and wearing it – including unique symbolism, identification of social status, and not surprisingly as a source of wealth.
What does Tribal Jewelry look like?
There is no one-look for Tribal Jewelry, since the styles, materials, and construction vary from group to group. Some pieces may be as simple as a garland of flowers and twigs placed on the head, while others are exquisitely detailed with extreme precision and elegant beauty.
Tribal Jewelry does have a few elements that distinguish it almost at once, however. The designs are frequently not symmetrical, which may be intentional or simply convenient. Vintage and old pieces may have stones missing, broken sections, and even debris from being spread out on the ground when they were sold.
Most pieces have an age patina, which is a warm darkening of the surface that can only be achieved over time (many try to reproduce it with new jewelry, but it is not the same). Having lived through many lives over many years, some Tribal Jewelry becomes individualized as each wearer adds their own flourish.
A delightful thing about Tribal Jewelry is that it was often worn in multiple ways. A necklace might be worn as a headpiece or part of a belt, a large clasp becomes a pendant when placed on a ribbon, multiple rings can frame the face when threaded with locks of hair, and so forth. Finally, Tribal Jewelry generally tends to be larger and more exuberant than contemporary jewelry, with some of the larger pieces weighing up to a pound (0.5 kg) or more. See more on Tribal Jewelry…
Ethnic Jewelry vs. Tribal Jewelry
Ethnic Jewelry on the other hand is usually new jewelry that is made to look like Tribal Jewelry. Its style is often streamlined by removing a little of the chunkiness and imperfections found in true Tribal Jewelry.
People who like their jewelry polished, yet still somewhat large and perhaps symbolic are particularly fond of Ethnic Jewelry. Because most ethnic jewelry is mass produced and not handmade, prices are generally lower and availability is higher.
Some Ethnic Jewelry is wonderful at capturing the tribal essence, others not so much. Bollywood Jewelry with its lavish design is great at retaining the opulence of ancient Mogul tribal traditions. Many jewelry artisans in Nepal are equally skilled at replicating old Tibetan and Himalayan tribal pieces for general consumption.
The quality of Ethnic Jewelry can differ significantly among manufacturers, even when using the same design. For example, contemporary Ottoman Ethnic Jewelry from Turkey is far superior to copies of the same jewelry made elsewhere. Still, Ethnic Jewelry is a great every-day alternative for Tribal Jewelry lovers.
What has been your experience with Tribal and Ethnic Jewelry? Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear.
So sorry, the Coupon Code for March 2015 has expired – Please see more recent blog posts and your Tribal Muse subscriber emails for any active Coupons that are currently available. Many thanks, Andrea @ Tribal Muse.