Woman's jewellery

Tekke Turkmen, 19th century AD
From north-eastern Iran

Shown here are a pair of prayer capsules (bent), a chest plaque (canga), and a chain of plaques (qinyac uci), all of silver with gilding. The prayer capsules contain written text, but the form and decoration of Turkmen amulets also served to ward off disease, evil spirits and the evil eye, and promote health and good fortune. These examples are decorated with orange stones and glass and may have been worn suspended from the neck, and usually by younger women. The other two pieces are inset with cornelians, widely used in Turkmen jewellery. The plaque would have been worn, either singly or as a pair, on the chest. The ornate chain would have formed the upper ornament on a woman's hat and used to fasten the edges of her headcloth.

In the nineteenth century, Turkmen women regularly wore a substantial amount of jewellery (weighing up to 17 kg for a wedding outfit), including distinctive pieces to decorate their plaited hair. Pieces were often of considerable size, such as lozenge-shaped chest plaques of up to 35 cm across. The women's movements must have created a distinctive sound as the various chains, bells and pendants knocked together. The nomadic way of life helped to establish the custom of wearing jewellery as a means of transporting and controlling the family's wealth. Jewellery indicated a woman's marital and social status. Today, much of this inheritance has been sold, and while traditional forms are still used, the range of jewellery pieces and the quality are reduced. Items are often made of gilt metal inlaid with glass beads instead of semi-precious stones and coral.

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More information


J. Kalter, The arts and crafts of Turkest (London, Thames and Hudson, 1983)

I.A. Firouz, Silver ornaments of the Turkom (Tehran, Hamdami Foundation, 1978)

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, The Turcoman of Iran (Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, 1971)


Length: 13.500 cm (prayer cases)
Length: 13.500 cm (prayer cases)
Length: 13.500 cm (prayer cases)

Museum number

AOA 1973.As9.1-4


Collected by Peter Alford Andrews


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