Europe first learned about the works of Turkmen jewelers thanks to the book of the English traveler Bourns, who made a trip to the country in 1831-1832. In the book, he placed illustrations depicting the jewelry of Mary girls. The Englishman noted the bright originality of jewelry, their artistic and technical difference from European samples. Bourns emphasized the influence of the life and culture of the people, which was reflected in the Turkmen jewelry.
Since the end of the 19th century, jewelry from Turkmenistan has become a permanent exhibit not only at Russian, but also at international exhibitions and fairs. Exposition visitors left rave reviews about them in Copenhagen in 1887, in Chicago in 1893 and in Paris in 1900.
Turkmens attached special importance to jewelry, because they emphasized the age, family and property status of a person. In addition, they were attributed magical power – they were used as amulets. So the silver jewelry wearers believed that such wares help to keep clean, and their ringing protects a person from evil spirits, and carnelian brings happiness and health. Therefore, silver and carnelian were the most popular materials for making Turkmen jewelry.
As other types of folk decorative art, jewelry contained plant and zoomorphic motifs: “gush gozi” – bird’s eyes, “alma chigit” – apple seed, etc.
A large number of children’s jewelry was associated with ideas about the miraculous power of amulets, but most often the artistic side prevailed over the magical role. The famous scientist of the 19th century Arminius Vambery especially highlighted the decoration “ok yai” (arrow-bow), which was sewn on the back of a children’s robe for boys. Jewelry for children was also mainly made of silver, sometimes beads and beads occurred.
Until the end of the 20th century, jewelry remained a traditionally male craft. It is known that the great Turkmen poet Makhtumkuli was an excellent jeweler. Masters-zergers liked to repeat the joke that as long as there was at least one woman in the world, no jeweler would be out of work.
In addition to women’s, girls’ and children’s jewelry, the masters also made other items with jewelry: horse harness, handles of knives and sabers, scabbards and many other wares.
Nowadays, a new generation of talented craftsmen has grown up, continuing and developing the rich traditions of Turkmen jewelry art. Visitors of the annual exhibition-contest of creative and design works “Gujurly yashlar” (Energetic Youth) can get acquainted with a number of interesting works of modern masters.