Turkmen Jewelry from the Collection of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf
October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013
The jewelry, carpets, and robe featured in this exhibition were produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Central Asia and Iran by Turkmen craftsmen. While Turkmen nomads had lived for hundreds of years in the region now divided between Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and northeast Iran, their lives changed markedly in the nineteenth century when, in response to a loss of pasture land, they increasingly joined settled populations. Despite the cultural shift, Turkmen craftsmen continued to work in a traditional mode. Their impressive silver jewelry was worn by women, though some objects, such as whips, were used by men. Additionally, silver ornaments were produced for horses, the most valuable asset of nomadic Turkmen. In exchange for the silver and gold used for their jewelry, the Turkmen took and traded slaves, raiding the Persian population as well as Cossacks and Russians.
From the top down, Turkmen women's jewelry consisted of headgear in the form of crowns, caps, headbands, and braid ornaments; pendants attached to headdresses and suspended on either side of the head; earrings; pectoral and dorsal ornaments; amulet holders; appliqués for clothing; armbands; and rings. While many of the pieces shown here were made by nomads, some were created by craftsmen based in towns or cities. This jewelry reflects the different styles used by specific tribal groups: the Yomut preferred surfaces crowded with ornamental designs, the Teke produced pieces in which fire-gilded decoration contrasts with a silver background, and the Ersari and Saryk tended toward no gilding and minimal decoration. On Kazakh jewelry, stamped decoration resembling granulation is prevalent. In the later twentieth century, craftsmen from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan copied older Turkmen jewelry but often used glass or composite materials rather than carnelian, pearls, or other semiprecious stones.
Read an interview with the Wolfs about their collection of Turkmen jewelry.