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About Kazakhstan / Arts / Craftsmanship / Jeweller’s Art

Kewellers produced rings, bracelets, ear-rings and brooches from silver and gold. These things had high demand amongst the population. The favourite metal of Kazakh jewellers was silver. Every Kazakh woman had silver things (rings, ear-rings, bracelets, buckles). Even nowadays silver things are used when wearing national costumes.

Kazakh national jeweller’s art occupies a special place in the history of the national culture, the roots of which go into the depth of the millennia. Centres for the handicraft industry of Kazakhs were the towns in Syrdariya and auls in Central Kazakhstan and Zhetysu. Famous blacksmiths, carvers, jewellers, smelters and cutters were working here. During XVI—XX centuries in winter and summer auls there were different workshops (ustalyk, ustakhana); blacksmith shops (temirshikhana), jewellers’ workshops (sheberkhana). Craftsmen smelted iron, zinc, lead, gold, silver; they made alloys of zinc and copper, silver and gold.

Jeweller’s art, unlike the other types of Kazakh applied arts, which were used for household crafts, was professional, and it was predetermined by the specifics of production.

Looking at the jewellery people could guess about the financial position, age and territorial belonging of a woman. Rich women could order the whole set of the jewels made in the same style. Girls from rich families had the complete set of silver jewellery, the total weight of which exceeded three kilograms.

Nature and number of jewels corresponded to the age of a woman. So the girls were having simple-shape ear-rings and bracelets. Later the jewels of the girls were changing, they were becoming more decorative. After marriage the decorations were getting simpler.

The jewellers working with gold and silver were called “zerger” (the word “zer” means gold, golden jewellery). Zergers were working alone and they were hereditably handing down their skills.

It is important to mention that Kazakh jewellers (zergers) perfectly knew the most complicated techniques of jeweller’s art: stamping, engraving, embossing, pelletizing, filigree, cutting, darkening. The main product of zergers was the jewels, which had great demand amongst all the social groups of the society and it was predetermined not only by their aesthetical nature but also by the ritual functional meanings related to traditions, customs and religious ideas.

Kazakhs were decorating children’s cradles, beds, chests, quivers, sheath for daggers and crockery with metal plates.

Open-work technique was widely developed for the production of gold and silver jewellery.

Gold and more often silver were used as a material. Kazakh believed that silver possessed purifying, preserving and magic features.

Women were usually wearing three or four seal-rings and rings, which were the everyday jewels, except for massive rings worn primarily by the older women during celebrations.

Various good wishes were expresses in the form of decorated jewels. Prosperity ideas are reflected in the rings “kus timsyk” (bird’s beak). Such a ring was usually gifted to a man (dzhigit) who was going to a military campaign so that he would return to his native place live and safe. Image of the birds was popular in the decoration of the applied arts. In ancient times the bird was symbolizing freedom, happiness and the good.

Unity of two sources, of two families symbolized massive West-Kazakhstan rings with the ties on two fingers - rings of a matchmaker. The matchmaker was presenting such rings to the mother-in-law for protection and good attitude to the daughter-in-law.

Ancient people considered ear-rings as a talisman, and girls were wearing them since childhood and they were permanently worn jewels. There were many types and variants of ear-rings. Filigree ear-rings are masterly and beautifully made. Elegant pendants in the form of small bells with fringes are combined with the light wonderful decoration.

Unique-shaped temporal jewels were very popular in the west and south of Kazakhstan. The composition of the jewels was very interesting. All the components (stamped solar signs, diamond-shaped figures) were combined into one harmonious unity with a wire, which forms a decorative spiral turning into the open-work insertion and further goes to the long straight shank.

Great interest is represented by the breast jewels – “tumarsha” (triangle shape), “boytumar” (in the form of the tube with pendants), which, besides being decorative, served as talismans. Amulets were made hollow, inside there were extracts from Koran, sea and river shells, owl’s feathers, lock of sheep or camel wool, which had favourable magic features.

Special attention must be paid to the breast jewels – “onirzhiyek” with an original decoration and structure. Onirzhiyek was an obligatory jewel of married women, especially in the period of breast-feeding. This jewel was saving woman’s breast from the evil eye.

The obligatory attribute of the women were ringing pendants – “sholpy”, “shashbau” decorating and emphasizing the length and thickness of hair, which symbolizes the women’s plait. They were hanging on the plait ends and were formed from metal coins or open-work medallions with the insertion of cornelian.

The ring of these jewels was meant to protect the hair because Kazakhs believed that there was some part of the soul in the hair. Kazakhs, like other oriental nations, thought that bells could frighten the evil with their ring. The weight of these jewels sometimes achieved three kilos, and, of course, they were weighing down the hair of the girls developing beautiful walking and bearing. Silver coins of these jewels were creating the unique melody corresponding to the steps of every girl and according to this melody people could judge of her personality and morals.

Women were carrying bracelets “blezik” by one or by two on both arms. Bracelets could be simple and combined. Sometimes bracelets with the rings (bes blezik) were on the hands.

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