Turkoman Gilded Silver Amulet – Enselik – Central Asia

 

 

Late 19th – early 20th century. Gilded Silver, 12 carnelian eye-shaped beads. Cm. 25,5 high x cm. 9,3 wide (10.03″ x 3.66″). Gr. 171,8 (6.06 oz.).

This amulet is known locally among the Turkmen as an enselik that was often worn attached to a braid or panel of cloth along the back of the body. The Turkmen are among the few people who embellish the back of the body as elaborately as they did the front. Today these gorgeous pieces can be worn along the back attached to hair braids, as a necklace, or hanging from a waist chain. The solidness of the upper part is balanced by the dangling elements extending  below it, which produced a soft, pleasant sound.

The Turkmen were pastoral nomads who lived in encampments, raised livestock, bred horses. In order to ensure year-round green pastures for their animals, the tribes moved two or three times a year. While not merchants themselves, the Turkmen were in constant contact with urban populations, and were often involved with providing transport and security for long-distance caravan trade.

Although nominally Sunni Muslim, the Turkmen kept many of their pre-Islamic  customs and beliefs, which were often embodied in the jewelry they made and  wore. Turkmen silver jewelry carried deep symbolic meanings and often marked an  individual’s passage from one stage of life to another. From a very early age, a  woman started wearing jewelry whose shapes and materials were believed to ensure  her ability to bear healthy children later in life. The amount of embellishments  a girl wore increased as she approached marriageable age. Once she had had her  first children, and her fertility had been established, the amount of jewelry  she received and wore decreased. In addition, silver jewelry believed to ward  off evil and illness was worn by men, women, and especially by children.

Jewelry was a significant financial investment, as it was handcrafted from  precious materials. There were cases when, in times of dire need, a woman would  part with her jewelry in order to help the survival of the tribe. Significant in  size and weight, Turkmen jewelry objects were made of silver, decorated with  semi-precious stones, and sometimes gilded for an added color effect and value.

For more information, Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman, by Dieter and Reinhold Schlechter 1983.