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в 70 городах мира c 1936 года

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Excerpts on the history of antique jewellery

 
 

In the Middle Ages, there were lots of crafts, but jewellery was considered to be the privileged one: the demand was very high. Obviously, women were goldsmiths’ standing customers. So what jewellery could the inhabitants of the 12th century Minsk possibly wear?  

The selection of jewellery, that a woman could afford, depended on her property status. At the same time, the jewellery women were wearing depended on their social status: in the traditional society, elements of clothing were restricted with the understanding of what a person should look like. 

Peasants’ jewellery

What jewellery could a peasant girl who came to Minsk to visit the market possibly wear? Special Slavonic jewellery, known as temporal rings, was compulsory. Young single girls wore them braided in their hair. Married women placed them on their head dresses.  It is said, that each of the Slavonic tribes had their own temporal rings. In Minsk, which was the border between the Dregoviches and the Kriviches, women usually wore rings similar to bracelets that belonged to the Dregoviches tradition or rings decorated with beaded pendants typical of the Kriviches culture. A village girl could wear a torc – a ring made of bronze and sometimes of silver, the ends of which were whimsically decorated.  But the necklace made of glass beads was the most popular jewellery for peasant girls. They were of different colours and shapes, but the most precious were the colourful ones. They are also called polychromic. They were very expensive. Necklaces made of amber, faience and semiprecious stones such as carneol and pebble, were in great request. Their expensiveness was closely connected with their origin: they all came from abroad. Girls could wear bracelets and rings during the feasts. 

Townswomen special jewellery

The jewellery of a townswoman was completely different from the one used by a village woman. The manufacturing technology was much more difficult and the material was pretty expensive. Townswomen could afford wearing temporal and finger rings made of silver.
There was a special kind of jewellery, which differentiated a townswoman from a girl of another social status.  Such special jewellery was known as glass bracelets. Usually, women wore several pieces on each hand. They were of different colours, and it created a special effect. Bracelets made of black, dark-blue and blue glass were very popular.  The most expensive ones were decorated with paintings made in gold or enamel. These paintings could be plain lines or a sophisticated ornamental composition with various elements, like circles, dots, spirals, petals, etc. Apart from bracelets, townswomen also wore blue, dark-blue, green, purple and black rings.

Expensive taste
Women belonging to the upper class used to wear the most expensive jewellery. The jewellery for such women was made of precious metals: silver and gold. But their value was not only in the materials they were made of but also in their origin: women from a higher social class wore jewellery brought from abroad. During the archeological excavations in Minsk, a golden bracelet was found. It was made of twisted piece of wire. Its ends resembled dragon’s heads. It is said that this bracelet came from Gotland (modern Sweden) and thus made a very long journey before coming into possession of a Minsk prince’s or boyar’s daughter or wife.

Local goldsmiths, who worked for the nobility, could also make jewellery using a complicated technology. They used different techniques such as filigree (a figure made of thin wire fused on the surface of the item), granulation (a figure made of small balls, also fused on the surface of the item), niello work (the process of covering the silver surface with the mixture of silver, lead and cupric sulfides). Afterwards the item was baked and a dark-grey painting on a light background could be seen). 

In the 12th-13th cc., there was a special selection of women’s jewellery worn by the representatives of the social elite. Such selection contained diadem, ryasna, hanging from a woman’s head dress and kolts, hanging on a ryasna at both temples. All of these items were made of silver and gold. They were covered with delicate figuration, including the one based on the technique of cloisonne enamel, which can be considred the pinnacle of the Middle Ages goldsmiths’ craftsmanship.  When creating such a picture on the surface of a piece of golden jewellery, the first thing for a goldsmith to do was making a shape of a picture to come. This shape was made of the superfine gold plates. When these cells were ready, they were filled with glassy powder, grounded into fine dust. Afterwards, the jewellery was thermolized at high temperature. This led to the transformation of the glassy mass into enamel, which filled the cells tightly. 

Mewellery

Men were also eager to buy and wear jewellery, though the range for men was definitely not as wide as for women. Bracelets, finger rings and torcs were very popular among men. Besides, the representatives of the social elite wore belts, decorated with metal plates. Sometimes, prosperous citizens also possessed such items.

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