Back in Neolithic Era, when the adventure began for hunter-gatherers and made its way for a better civil life, the inhabitants of Anatolia started to bring gifts for their loved ones buried in graves, mostly underneath the sofas in their homes. Those gifts were consisting of bracelets, rings, necklaces and similar jewelry made out of unique stones, teet, horns or bones of hunted animals or seashells (as a serious part of Anatolia was an inner ocean). The earliest jewelry of Anatolian history goes back as early as 7000 BCE, of those mostly found at the excavations of Cayonu, Diyarbakir, Asiklar Hoyuk, Kosk Hoyuk and the most important one; Catalhoyuk located in Central Anatolia today. While priceless metal works were made by 4th millennium BC, gold pieces were also found in tombs located at Eskiyapar and Alacahoyuk, which is unique pieces considering the design and technique they have. The art of jewelry of Hittites, who founded a leading empire that was centrally located in Corum, are also great examples of sophisticated pieces. Findings dated back to 7th century BC are also outnumbered, found particularly in the western part of Anatolia. At this era, capitals founded by Hellenic Anatolians ruled the western coast of Turkey while most of the inland areas were under the reign of Lydians. The Lydian capital of Sardis, well-known for its being the first place on Earth that invented the “money”, was more of a capital for gold jewel production. The artifacts, dating from 7th to 6 century BC, had been found in the unique excavation area of Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and in tumuli in the area of Usak. The Artemis of Ephesians, earlier Kybele; mother goddess of Anatolia, a universal deity who was a guardian of civilizations, ruler over nature and the queen of bees. She represented three different aspects of women; the first one is virginity; secondly the married woman and finally the motherhood. These three important aspects are symbolized in the art by the use of motifs like rosettes and double-headed axes triplicated.
The most frequently repeated emblems of the mother goddess are the crescent, the bee, and the sparrowhawk. Bees often got the feature on earrings, brooches, and the bottom of pins. The crescent, the symbol of Artemis as the respected goddess of the moon, can be seen as crescent-shaped earrings and pendants. Sparrowhawks, mostly seen on brooches and pendants, symbolize the goddess’s power over the mother nature, and plant motifs symbolize fertility. Granulation is a pretty common decorative technique on the items of this era. The ones made in the Aegean coastal region was mainly worn by women, the men wearing only rings or sometimes wreaths, too. In Lydia, however, where the culture got influenced by the strong eastern cultures, men wore it to a much greater extent. From 500 BC onwards, Anatolian cultures espoused many aspects of the Persian art, letting the characteristic style to rise that is also known as Anatolian Persian.
Especially, looking at the large quantities found at the tombs of Sardis and Usak, we can see this picture pretty clear that as the dressing style changed, they stopped using pins and fibulas also. So, earrings, necklaces and pendants, bracelets, rings, buckles and various ornaments for clothing took their place. During these times, this art became richer and more colorful, thanks to the use of semi-precious stones and glass imitations.
Two Main Centers of Production: Sardis and Lampsakos (modern Lapseki)
Since Lydian times, the finer quality had been produced in Sardis and on the Strait of Canakkale, triangles and lozenges were the characteristic forms of that period produced in Lampsakos (modern Lapseki).
The Zoroastrianism religion of the Persians underscored a trinity harmonized with Anahita, the world mother, Ahura Mazda, representing light and righteousness, and Ahirman representing the strength of evil, and it might be because of that the triangle was a symbol of these three facets of divinity.
Related more to fertility, necklaces were often combined with beads in diversified forms, such as pomegranates (it still symbolizes fertility in Anatolian culture) and sea snails. The techniques of decorative metalwork were rather filigree and granulation, earlier discovered starting from the 4th century BC and onwards. When Alexander The Great put an end to Persian state power back in 330 BC and continued his victories as far as India, the blend of Aegean and Eastern cultures were now known as Hellenistic. So, basically, the Persian elements were replaced with earrings enriched with animal motifs, mythological symbols, and some other new features. The main capital of these products was Lampsakos and then later followed by Antioch and Alexandria. The new concepts of this era included the knot of Heracles and Isis or Hathor (two Egyptian goddesses who are constantly identified). However, Aphrodite, the goddess symbolizes mostly love and sometimes she is seen in the form of Eros and sometimes by doves or myrtle, the sacred tree of the goddess. Other flowers and plants that can be described as sacred and correlated with several deities are the oak of Zeus, the anchorage of Apollo, the vine of Dionysus and the olives of Athena. Thanks to the sovereignty of eastern, the adoption of semi-precious stones were introduced to the community during these times and it finally led the art of jewelry to a new diversity. Rather than all the classical items produced till this far, such as earrings, wreaths, and diadems, hairpins, necklaces, bracelets, and rings; breast ornaments and hair nets also took their space in the market and became pretty much trendy. The richness and the quality of the items are flabbergasting and totally marked a new epoch in the history of this art. Now, you can say; what happened after these new styles were invented and you would naturally think that possibly they could take this to next levels… Well, things did not work out as good as we wish…
Especially from the mid-2nd century BC, while it got more remarkable in the 1st century BC, the economic crisis led the audience demand less costly jewelry and as a result of declining prosperity, things started to change. Anatolia became a part of the Roman Empire and Rome became the center for producing the most prized and jaw-dropping items. Necklaces, rings, head and hair ornaments and medallions representing the emperors overrun most of the ancient designs.
Byzantine jewelry was a complete extension of Roman traditions and the production in other cities discontinued while Constantinople became the one and only center for jewelers. While the skillful goldsmiths did not copy the entire technique, the old customs were developed with the new additions of Christian iconography and it began to be used to express someone’s social status. Justinian clearly had formed laws indicating sapphires, emeralds, and pearls to be used only by the emperors (Justinian Code).
Ottoman Empire also benefited the Anatolian plateaus for its rich mines of gold, silver, gems, emeralds, and diamonds brought or sent as presents from other countries. Only to serve the sultan with their skills, there were more than 80 artisans as recorded as early as the 1500s, also noting the art was at its golden age by the 16th century.
Today, artisans do their utmost keep this centuries-old inheritance alive and beautiful handmade productions are still the top trend for most people.
Interested and want to learn more about this heritage? Let us take you around Turkey for a shopping tour then and teach you all the secrets.