Exhibitions/ Art Object

Dorsal Plait Ornament

Object Name:
late 19th–early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver; fire-gilded, with stamped and applied decoration, Persian silver coins, table-cut carnelians, loop-in-loop chains, bells, and cordiform pendants
22 3/8 x 5 3/4 in. (56.8 x 14.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
Yomut Dorsal Plait Ornaments (MMA 2011.584.7, MMA 2005.443.6, and MMA 2009.530.12)

Dorsal ornaments created by the Yomut tribe are particularly original and appealing. In nos. 2011.584.7 and 2005.443.6 modest materials are combined with great artistry to create a sumptuous display as lavish as any achieved with more precious stones or pure gold. Both of these examples, as well as no. 2009.530.12, display numerous variations in the configuration of the coins. They also feature a wide diversity of shapes, including cordiform ornaments, roundels, floral forms, and semispherical bells, and a sense of volume introduced by the boxlike compartments.

Particularly intriguing is the way coins are used in these pieces. In no. 2011.584.7 the ten coins are not visible, since they serve as the base for gilded, embossed plaques, which is rather unusual, while no. 2005.443.6 displays the more typical use of coins as decorative elements in and of themselves. Close examination by the Museum’s conservator has revealed that the coins in the latter piece (see photo of back in this volume) were flattened at both ends to adapt them to the ladderlike construction.[4]

The coins utilized in these two pieces are Persian, dating from ca. 1848–1907. The use of such coins for decoration reflects the Turkmen’s success as slave traders and proclaims their pride in their prowess as warriors.

The jewelry produced by local silversmiths shares a decorative vocabulary with horse trappings, which they also created,[5] and no. 2005.443.6 exemplifies the interrelationship between these two types of ornaments in the Turkmen tradition.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


4. Jean-François de Lapérouse, conversation with the author, 2006.

5. Beresneva, L. The Decorative and Applied Art of Turkmenia. Leningrad, 1976, fig. 103, and Firouz, Iran Ala. Silver Ornaments of the Turkoman. Tehran, 1978, p. 44, fig. 69, for examples of Teke leather horse trappings decorated with similar stamped embossed roundels.
Inscription: on both obverse and reverse of each coin
Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf, Toronto, Canada (until 2005; gifted to MMA)
Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 43, pp. 86-87, ill. p. 87 (color).

Related Objects

Jewelry Elements

Date: late 14th–16th century Medium: Gold sheet; worked, chased, and set with turquoise, gray chalcedony, and glass Accession: 1989.87a–l On view in:Gallery 455


Date: first half 11th century Medium: Gold; filigree and granulation Accession: 57.88a–c On view in:Gallery 453

Dorsal Plait Ornament

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Silver; fire-gilded with stamped and applique decoration, table cut carnelians, Persian silver coins, loop-in-loop chains, and semi-spherical bells Accession: 2011.584.7 On view in:Not on view

Seal Ring with the name of Hajji Muhammad ibn Mahmud

Date: probably 16th century Medium: Bezel: lapis-lazuli; carved Shank: silver; worked, gilded, and with black inlay Accession: 41.160.280 On view in:Gallery 455

Amulet, One of a Pair

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Silver, fire-gilded with gallery wire, stamped bead and applique decoration, rams' heads upper terminations, link chains, bells, embossed pendants and table cut carnelians Accession: 2010.501.6a On view in:Not on view