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.

Wiki flag


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

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  Ersari

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.

Next Up

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!

Turkmen jewelry style Collage

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?

You can see my tribal jewelry pieces at Tribal Muse and Tribal Muse on Etsy. Tribal Muse is now on Facebook too…please visit! Oh, and you will also find Tribal Muse on Pinterest. Enjoy.

Andrea @ Tribal Muse www.tribalmuse.com and www.etsy.com/shop/TribalMuse


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.Traditional dress - Copy

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.

PicMonkey CollageNomadic 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.

Tribal Muse Turkmen Jewelry Collage

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.

Thanks for visiting, Andrea @ Tribal Muse http://www.tribalmuse.com

Also Tribal Muse on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TribalMuse