Late 19th–early 20th century
Present-day Uzbekistan, Karakalpak tribe
Silver, fire gilded with false granulation and twisted wire and beaded wire decoration, gilded and silver appliqués, chain-link and cone-shaped pendants with slightly domed and cabochon-cut carnelians and turquoise beads; 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (24.1 x 26.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2008 (2008.579.12)
KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Nomads, Turkmen, daily life, jewelry, talisman, silver, precious stones
LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS CHAPTER
This amulet combines symbolic meaning, exquisite craftsmanship, and precious materials to create a wearable and portable object of both monetary value and talismanic power.
Turkmen jewelry was not only decorative; it also was thought to have protective properties. This amulet, worn as a chest pendant, was designed to offer the wearer protection. The central hollow cylinder, which opens on either side, would have held a rolled paper scroll containing blessings, passages from the Qur'an, or prayers. The gentle sound produced by the many dangling elements was believed to ward off evil spirits.
The talismanic function of the amulet illustrates the Turkmen tribes' blending of pre-Islamic customs and beliefs with the Muslim faith.
The size and weight of this amulet contribute to its dignified appearance. The body is made of silver, which was gilded for a multicolored effect. Harmoniously placed throughout are orange-brown carnelian stones, which were widely prized for their protective properties. Tiny bits of turquoise provide blue accents. The solidity of the upper section is balanced by the hanging pendants extending below.
Though men made Turkmen jewelry, most was worn by women. Jewelry indicated a woman's wealth, tribal affiliation, and social and marital status; one could tell if a woman was a young girl, newlywed, or long married just by looking at her jewelry. Jewelry was often made of high-quality silver and there are documented cases of women selling their jewelry for the tribe in times of dire need.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History