The magic of Kazakh national jewelry part 2

Jewelry worn by the steppe can be divided into two categories: non-removable, sewn to clothing, and removable, woven into braids, worn on the hands, fingers, neck and chest.

Kazakh women wear jewelry, one might say, from the cradle: a newborn girl was put on jewelry as a talisman against the evil eye - it could be a bird's or an animal's claw, framed in silver, which was often decorated with inserts of semi-precious stones, and worn on a handle or leg. In past centuries, there was a high infant mortality, wishing to protect their baby, parents immediately acquired tumars-amulets, which had their own distinctive shape in different regions of the country.



With the growth of the girl, the amulet was altered to a takiya hat - and this amulet, or tumar, became the beginning of the collection of jewelry for the future woman. Sometimes there were several tumars, and the girls happily wore their children's amulets, being sure that they would bring them happiness and protect them from evil. In addition, babies almost from birth also wore narrow earrings, and then they got silver earrings, which had many pendants and multi-colored stone inserts. Usually, the grandmother gave her granddaughters their first earrings.

By the time the girl was 10–12 years old, she already had a full set of jewelry, which later became part of her wedding jewelry set. At the same age, Kazakh girls for the first time became the owners of complex breast ornaments өnirzhiek and alқa, which they passed on to younger relatives in the family by the age of 30. Until the 1920s and 1930s, onirzhieks were worn only by Western Kazakhstani girls, whose breasts were decorated with three hollow plates in the form of rectangles, filled with white paste and connected by chains, pendants of rhombuses and bells for weight.

Kazakh girls and young women with great pleasure wore such breast ornaments as үki ayқ (owl's claw), alқa өnershe, amulets tұmarsha (triangle). They were made of plates of silver or other metal and were decorated with national ornaments and gilding, as well as decorated with stones or turquoise inserts.

Girls who, by their age, had the right to walk bareheaded, could wear beautiful openwork pendants with numerous coins or plaques - ornaments for braids - sholpa and shash tenge, that usually consisted of two or three parts and four coins in a pair of tiers, attached with a ring to a silver medallion. But married women, after a year of family life, weaved coral beads into their braids, as well as multi-colored ribbons and strings. Even young women wore shashbau - a decorated chain of intricate weaving or a ribbon with sewn coins, at the end of which there was a tassel of cords or silver pendants. Schashbau begins at the base of the braids and, going down to the ends, emphasizes the beauty of the hair of the mistress of the jewelry.

On holidays and special days, Kazakh women wore the so-called temples: shekelik and suyrshpa, attached to the loops of the headdress or to the hair at the temple. The scaffolds usually consisted of several parts, most often they had the shape of a triangle, petal, spike, ball, which the master jeweler decorated in various ways and completed with beautiful ringing pendants. The upper - the main part of the temples was plastic and had compositional coherence, and movable pendants and chains, as it were, framed the face, completing the image of the beauty.

Women were very fond of individual jewelry and wore it all the time, practically without removing it, these include earrings (syrga). Earrings in the national style were varied in type and shape options. Flat earrings decorated with national ornaments, as well as moon earrings (ai syrga) - in the shape of a crescent, shyғyrshyқ syrғa - wire earrings of various shapes, were very popular among Kazakh women. Bright earrings with semiprecious stones were called kazdi, tasti syrga, and earrings in the form of two-tier pendants were also in demand: salpinshak, sabaq, shashak syrga.

Of the removable jewelry, women of the Great Steppe Country often wore rings and bracelets. Various bracelets (blazik), created by craftsmen using the hot and cold forging method or with the help of blowing, were preferred by Kazakh women of all ages and classes. The bracelets were solid and composite, decorated with stone inserts, overlaid filigree, embossing, carving, ornamentation. Women wore blouses in different versions: one at a time, or in pairs on both wrists, or two at a time. Bracelets such as the blazik tastes were composed of stones framed by a single frame.

Bracelets were closed using flaps or hinged method. There was no limit to the skill of the zergers, as well as to the flight of their creative imagination: bracelets were varied in shape, filigree performance, size, width, decor, fasteners, color scheme, engraving and combination of materials. Each region of the country had its own characteristics and preferences in the execution of such popular jewelry. It was not always easy to wear such bracelets: some samples weighed up to 100 grams or more.

Several bracelets are considered the pinnacle of the mastery of Kazakh zergers in terms of the complexity of execution and originality of the idea. For example, elegant openwork bracelets - zhұқa seldir blazik - were very popular among women, but they were worn only on special occasions. For several centuries, a maiden headset bracelet with rings bes blazik (five bracelets) has been considered the real crown of the creation of Kazakh jewelers. There is an interesting story about a similar gold bracelet created in 1899 for the great Sarah Bernhardt.

Czech theater set designer and jewelry designer Alfons Mucha came up with a sketch of an original bracelet in the form of a snake wrapped around the forearm, whose sting passed into chains that connected with several rings. This jewelry (European name "Rose of the Hand"), intended for Sarah Bernhardt in the role of Medea, was made by the French jeweler Georges Fouquet. But, in fact, this is our national bracelet without blaise. By the way, only girls wore it, and older Kazakh women no longer wore it, considering the jewelry immodest for their age.

But every Kazakh woman was obliged to wear silver rings and signet rings as an everyday decoration, and even a few on one hand, otherwise the food she cooked would not be clean. And the proverb “Tamak adal bolu shin, kolda zhuzik bolu kerek” (“For the food to be clean, there must be a ring on the hand”), which has come down to our times, confirms this. Women wore a variety of rings every day, but massive rings were usually worn on holidays by older people. The saturation of the color of stones or glass, the form of caste (setting for a stone) or ornament, as a rule, emphasized the decorative base of the rings.

Throughout Kazakhstan, rings with caste in the form of a spiral or granular cone otau zhuzik (otau - yurt, zhuzik - ring) were widespread and in demand; bird beak - kus umryn zhuzik, as well as rings in the form of a turtle tasbaha zhuzik with a pebble placed inside, which carried the hope of prosperity and family well-being. But Western Kazakhstani zergers had their own style in creating massive rings, which had shinki (a bezel worn on the finger, which was used to determine the size of the ring) for two fingers. These rings were called kұdaғi zhүzik (matchmaker's ring), they symbolized the formation of a new family, and they were worn mainly by older women or at the wedding the relatives of the bride gave the mother-in-law so that she was more affectionate to her daughter-in-law.

But the jewelery set of the bride is considered the pinnacle of perfection of the works of Kazakh masters-zergers. It included all of the above decorations that a Kazakh girl received annually during her life, and when she became a bride, special decorations were added to the great celebration. By the time the girl got married, she already possessed a magnificent set of jewelry that had artistic value and was kept by the woman all her life, and then she was inherited by her daughters and granddaughters, since with age, the clothes of the steppe women became stricter, and they themselves they no longer wore many bright ornaments.

The bride's wedding decoration emphasizes the beauty and perfection of the newlywed, evoking pleasant memories and positive emotions in adult women, and in girls - the dream of a future happy marriage. There were more items in the wedding jewelry set. An obligatory attribute of the bride's attire is a sukele headdress, complemented by velvet ribbons decorated with pearl or coral threads with tied bells. In addition, large pendants like earrings were also attached to the saukele - saukelenin syrgasy, and when the bride took her first steps, a silver melodic ringing announced her approach.

A number of plaques and coins were sewn onto the camisole of the newlywed, with the obligatory chest decoration - tұmarsh, sometimes - alқa came with it. The headdress, necklace, silver pendants, medallions, earrings, rings, coins and other adornments practically covered the newlywed's clothes from head to toe - this is very beautiful, but at the same time it is difficult. Sometimes the bride's outfit reached 16 kilograms, so it was not easy for her to carry these treasures on her! But historically, the bridal jewelry ensemble primarily played a protective role, and only then emphasized the beauty of the bride.

In the first year of marriage, the young wife, before the birth of her first child, wore special jewelry, through the form, ornaments, decor and symbolic purpose of which the idea of ​​fertility - large offspring was transmitted. Most often, she wore on her chest an amulet boi tamar, which consisted of tubular and triangular parts symbolizing masculine and feminine principles, as well as various fasteners, buckles and plaques depicting birds and fish, suggesting the birth of children. On some of the jewelry, the masters depicted the sun as a symbol of fertility, as well as pomegranate, wild rose, hawthorn, mulberry and other trees, fruits, seeds and cereals endowed with sacred power by the people and bringing a large harvest, which was associated with the expectation of numerous offspring.

Having a natural sense of taste and takta, Kazakh women, moving from one age category to another, began to wear more modest and calm jewelry: for example, instead of bow and temple ornaments sholpa and shashbau, threads of pearls or corals appeared, as well as colored ribbons and shawls of kimeshek. Ornaments for hands became more restrained: instead of paired bracelets, the steppe women wore zhumyr blazikter - bracelets in the form of a rounded piece of silver wire, the ends of which were often given the appearance of a snake - as a charm, instead of paired bracelets - zhalyn bass. By the way, such bracelets, not closed in a ring, adorned the hands of many elderly women without class and regional differences.

I would also like to tell you about the “eyes” (emphasis on the last syllable!) - inserts of precious, semi-precious stones and colored glass in jewelry. It is no coincidence that the Kazakh call these inserts tas (stone) or kөz (eye): the people endowed the “eye” with miraculous magical power, sincerely believing that stones help, protect and heal them, and the “all-seeing eye” guards and protects from harm. It is generally accepted that falcon, cat, tiger and bovine eyes, belonging to the category of minerals of the group of quartz, or eye spars, protect the owner of the jewelry from the evil eye, warn of the approach of danger and other troubles: they become heavier, change color, or, as it were, "squinting their eyes " turn into a strip.

Coral, so beloved by many women, has a similar protective effect; many were sure that pearls - heals a thorn; amber - thyroid disease - goiter; turquoise brings happiness and well-being; carnelian was considered a solar magic gem, a stone of joy and well-being, protection from infertility and accidents, from natural disasters and premature death - that is why our zergers not only made jewelry with carnelian, but also protective amulets, and also encrusted weapons, cups, etc. caskets.

In general, Kazakh jewelers were very sensitive to the stone from which the jewelry was made. They did not set the task of showing their skill or the wealth of the owner of the product, but on the contrary, they wanted to emphasize the beauty of the gem, therefore they cut it so carefully: they only removed irregularities and polished it, adjusting it to the shape of the caste, while maintaining the natural shine, color and noble structure of the stone ...

So, we talked about Kazakh zerger masters and the works of art that they give life to - about jewelry that our ancestors loved so much and that are adored by their contemporaries. Behind each of the artifacts of Kazakh zergers eternal art that have survived to this day, there is a train of stories, myths and legends ...

And while scientists and doctors are figuring out whether jewelry is really capable of healing the psyche and physical condition, as lithotherapists say (stone therapy is a type of alternative medicine), our women are happy to wear modern jewelry, and the jewelry they inherited is simply worn like that - for mood, for beauty and to make a pleasant impression on others. But somewhere in the depths of their souls, subconsciously, they, like their ancestors many centuries ago, are sure that they are under the protection of higher powers while they wear national jewelry. I believe that this long tradition will not be interrupted on our daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters, and the skill of Kazakh zergers will continue to "win the hearts" of connoisseurs of the jewelry art of the East.


1. Kurbanalieva M. K. Zharkyn zhurek (Flaming heart), Almaty, 2018, p. 17, 18
2. Quran, Surah "Al Insan", 76: 13-19
3. Jewelry art
4. Mikhail Yudin. Jewelry art of Kazakhstan,


Author: Madina Kurbanalieva, @madina_kurbanali

Photo: author's personal archive 

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