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ANATOLIAN JEWELRY

Around their necks, in their ears and on their fingers, Anatolian women’s messages and expectations are conveyed in the jewelry that enhances their beauty. T he wearing of jewelry is a tradition going back to the earliest periods of history. The jewelry created by the many belief systems of the past cultures of Anatolia, cradle of civilizations, exhibits a dazzling variety. The use of jewelry in Anatolia dates back to the Neolithic (8000-5500 B.C.) We can follow this tradition in descriptions and archaeological findings from the oldest cultures, such as the Hittite, Assyrian, Urartu, Lydian, Phrygian.

Jewelry made from precious metals has been found especially in graves from civilizations dating to periods in which it was customary to bury the dead together with their possessions. Among them, women’s jewelry in particular constitutes a rich and varied group. Important centers of jewelry making were established in Anatolia in this period when jewelry of superior workmanship, especially gold jewelry, was produced. Jewelry in which religious motifs were employed for protection again spells, malice and the evil eye has also been found in excavations. Developing relations among the various civilizations and interaction between the cultures of East and West ensured that new designs were produced based on these older models.

Silver jewelry is more often observed among the traditional people of Anatolia. This jewelry, which is worn from birth to death and sometimes passed down from generation to generation, has been the material and spiritual mainstay especially of women over the centuries. From head to toe, woman lived every day decked in her jewelry, expressing her status in society through the objects of adornment she wore on her body. For a woman, such metal jewelry is at the same time an investment. When a baby is born, the relatives, friends and acquaintances that come to congratulate the new mother bring various pieces of jewelry, gold coins and gold ‘Maasallah’ amulets, which they fasten to the baby’s head, clothes and pillow. The husband of the new mother also buys a piece of jewelry to give her as a gift. Gifts of jewelry are given to a boy who is being circumcised, and jewelry of various kinds is brought as well to a prospective bride at her engagement party or a bride at her wedding and pinned on her during the ceremony. This tradition, which began in the villages, continues in even the most modern settings today. Gold and silver jewelry produced by a variety of centuries-old techniques such as filigree, relief, embossing, inlaying or using precious stones continues to fill the windows of jewelers’ shops.

In Anatolia today jewelry occupies an important place in social life from birth to death. Traditional pieces of jewelry convey various messages to one’s milieu. You can tell from the bracelets on her wrist whether a young girl is engaged or newly married. Likewise from the rings on her fingers. Many pieces of jewelry are also laden with sacred beliefs. There is, for example, a ring worn with conviction by women who want to get pregnant. Amulets are worn around the neck as lucky charms. Among the headpieces, the metal ‘tomakan’ is believed by the Turkmens to protect a woman against lightning. It is also believed that silver jewelry that jangles as one walks and sways will protect a woman working in the fields or vineyards from snakes and scorpions or even, according to an ancient shamanistic belief, from evil spirits. The decorative motifs on jewelry have different meanings. Motifs such as the Hand of Fatima, the magic triangle, and the seal of Solomon were created under the influence of past beliefs. As talismans, these protective pieces of jewelry also enhance a woman’s beauty on her forehead, face, ears and hair, as well as on her neck and breast, at her waist and belly, and on her wrists, arms and fingers.

Reference: Sabiha Tansug, Servet Dilber / SKYLIFE

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