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.