An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment
I aknowledge the fact that ethnic refers nowadays to whatever comes from the "non-white" world, i.e. the world except europe, western russia and north america.
I had the chance to read some books dealing with jewelry and adornment from very diverse regions of western europe (bavaria, greece, tyrol, northern scandinavia, ukraine, corsisa, the alps, andalucia, holland.....) and the least i can say is that they are very attractive without being too much into the trends of urban europe at the time they were made.
They keep a very strong countryside feeling in them with many times, religious (catholic, saints cult..) beliefs being highlighted. they were shared by ethnic groups as well and were often found at a very limited geographical places and not widespread over larger areas, cities or countries.
Why do you think collectors are turning their back to these pieces?
Do you think that they could be engulfed into the wider ethnic jewelry family?
Any collectors around with some pictures, insights, information?
Give us your thoughts about that.
For me. the term 'ethnic jewellery' refers to pieces from a particular ethnic group, it has no relevance to colour.
I only know a little about native American and Canadian jewelry and ethnic textiles. Most of the significant and iconic finds are already in collections and anything that is considered authentically old is beyond the means of most ethnic collectors of modest means. Modern native textiles and silver are still being produced and are quite beautiful but they are commercial, made to be bought by non-natives. Any thing antique or made for personal use is astronomically high and really, extremely difficult to find.There was never an abundance anyway as the number of American and Canadian natives is extremely small compared to the number of people wearing and producing ethnic art in the Muslim world. Now that brings up the question of Cental and South American ethnic items and I am always confused when I think of our relationship to these countries. Americans just do not seem to be as involved in the cultures south of them as they are in cultures east and west of them. I do not know the reason for this, but more Americans travel to Europe, Egypt, Bali, etc, than travel to Mexico, or other South American countries. There are are comparatively very few ethnic items from these countries on the market and the interest in them seems low. There is some interest in collecting silver Mexican jewelery from Taxco -- the prices of authentic pieces are relatively high and people do buy it to collect and wear. I am just speaking off the cuff here when I refer to the market for south American jewelry, there might be somebody else on the forum who could really better inform us of its price and market. I can see we have at least one collector here who has an outstanding collection of European jewelry and that is our mysterious Caucasian treasures member. I myself would love to possess some examples of Caucasian silver but I rarely see anything of note or interest for sale so I guess I am limited here. Hope some other members can answer your question more thoroughly.
thank you all for your input.
Indeed for me the "white" world" does not mean any reference to colour but merely a way to refer to a geographical part of the world.
Here in Paris the "quai branly" museum is dealinf with "primitiv arts" as they labelled it, thought you can see inside pieces of the north african high middle age similar to those that were worn in renaissance europe.
I think that as patty said the old european and american ethnic jewelry have been collected first and is out of reach to any limited budget collectors and for an overwhelming part it is actually sitting in mueseums.
The fact is that i was always startled by the fact that all the "ethnic jewelry" encyclopedic books do not highlight any serious old ethnic jewelry from europe. As a moroccan and a witness of the local jeelry market i was amazed to why there was no mention of these jewelry (europen old one) especially when i discovered its richness and variety.
For example there are as many types of catholic crosses in french and italian Savoy asethnic crosses among the tuareg in the sahara.
I was delighted to see those last photos of the balearic islands and that was exactely what i was talking about, thanx veronica.
Somehow i feel like "ethnic" is still referring to exotic in a way of "far away" and not related to europe in any way!!
Maybe there is an unfortunate lack of knowledge of europen about their own adornment history as JOOSTsaid, wich is very sad and i hope that this site will help us srengthen our knowledge in these matters as it has prooven to be since its beginning.
this is really an interesting subject! I have tried to reflect why this is so, but have not really found an answer. On the other hand, collecting old jewellery seems to be focused on certain countries of Asia, Africa, but not to all. So one could also say, why collectors collect pieces from Afghanistan, Morocco, India etc.? but why other countries are left out? I have noticed that it is not from all countries in Asia and Africa that ethnic jewellery is collected, e.g. one never sees pieces from Thailand, Vietnam or Japan? Why? Probably there are none of interest or none that fascinate our Western souls. It is always Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, etc. and the Saharan countries. I think this is so, because these countries do have more and more interesting old jewellery than other places. European old jewellery seem to be too old-fashioned to wear, whereas old jewellery from Maghreb, Afghanistan, Jemen, etc. seems to fascinate us. It has nothing to do with their origin, but with the way they look, they just catch our enthusiams. Perhaps it is a phenomen of our time?
and a collection os scandinavian hair combs
I think it is all out there and being collected.
The issue is in the concepts of what is ethnicity...
My Husband commented yesterday that Asian food is sold from and Ethnic section of the supermarket, whilst Italian and Mexican is not......same issue!!
Sarah, I think that those combs are excellent pieces, but I would hardly classify them as "ethnic". They happen to be Norwegian, but are in fact very representative of such jewellery made in Europe generally at that time. When we talk about "ethnic" it would indeed be quite wrong to regard anything as "ethnic" on the basis of colour, for example, but the term does refer to the characteristics of a particular group/culture as distinct from another. What collectors of ethnic jewellery have a right to expect, if it is ethnicity they are after, is that what they collect has DISTINGUISHING FEATURES IDENTIFYING IN AN OBVIOUS WAY THAT THE OBJECTS CLEARLY COME FROM ONE AREA AND NOT ANOTHER. I don't really think that the combs you show do meet that criterion sufficiently to mark them as particularly "ethnic". Glad you posted them as they are great, but if anything I think you confirm the strength of what several of us have said here, i.e. that European jewellery is hard to find. It EXISTS allright, but it is hard to find as something to buy. For the most part those pieces that really tended to be "local" in Europe have found their way into museums, or have been broken up, or perhaps are occasionally found in some great collections. But there is no way that one could collect them the way one can e.g. Indian or North African jewellery.
Personally I feel that it is a very white European/American concept that ethnic items do not come from White European/American peoples.
In Mauritian supermarket, you will find Heinz and Marmite in the ethnic food section..
It is all a matter of perspective.
to me this piece is a necklace
and the ethnicity... European, French, Parisien.
from Ait Ouzzine
and the ethnicity African, Moroccan, Berber/Amazigh
Both are purchasable at the relevant price, bith can be chosen and collected.
That is right, Sarah: jewellery which is PARTICULAR TO AN ETHNIC GROUP , to use your words, is by definition "ethnic jewellery". It has nothing to do with people being white, yellow, brown, or black, or where in the world they come from or live. The Parisian piece you are showing might just dubiously qualify - dubiously because at that time such pieces were on the one hand on the whole most likely to have been made there, but on the other hand people in other European nations were making much the same thing and Paris was not always first. The Norwegian combs are a case in point: in what respects are they typically "Norwegian"? By contrast the Volendam necklace which you have seen me post (and which appears in Truus's book on p. 10) IS ethnic, markedly and quite definably Dutch, and easily identifiable as distinct in character from pieces from other places. So there certainly IS ethnic jewellery which was made in Europe (little is now made there which is not "international"). But it is not enough for a piece to have been merely made in a particular country for it to qualify as "ethnic": if it looks in essence just the same as other pieces made in other countries and there is nothing clearly to set it apart then it has no ethnic identity and does not represent a particular ethnic community. Art Nouveau, for example, is an INTERNATIONAL STYLE OF A PARTICULAR PERIOD, not an ETHNIC CONCEPT. By contrast the Japanese combs which the same FB friend posts ARE "ethnic", because they have a clear ethnic identity: they could not possibly not be Japanese. "European" is hardly an ethnic concept, as Europe has so many cultures and ethnic groups within it. Moreover, many "European" pieces of jewellery are hardly distinct from counterparts in America, Canada, Australia, or indeed even in Asian countries where the same things are made. The further back you go in time, the more chance there is to find pieces which are not just "European" but indeed "French", or "Dutch" or "Spanish", etc. During the Art Nouveau period already there tended to be a sameness to pieces made in Europe, North America, etc, etc. It hardly makes sense to speak of ethnicity in such a case.
Two beads made in Murano Venice Europe in 1600s
the first traded to South America, the second traded to Africa
I think many would consider the ethnicity to be of the countries they were traded to...but for me their ethnicity is truly European.....
A complex picture, which I feel should be dealt with using knowlege of origin and a factual framework...
great subject which I feel is important to dicuss in an informed forum such as this.
That seems the problem, our Western world has become to international, so that jewellery cannot be identified anymore as belonging to this or that European country, hence is not "ethnic". The ones one could identify are very old and very precious (e.g. from ancients kings and queens... and too expensive to be anywhere else than in a museum or in the safes of a royal family, e.g. in England). We really have to go back very far as Joost said, to find "ethnic European jewellery". Today, and perhaps this is a little sad, we produce the modern things, which all resemble each other in their style unable to associate with any ethnical group - something like a globalization also in jewellery. The countries of the European Alps had the ethnic jewellery suited for the national costumes, e.g. with a silver Edelweiss or similar, and these do look today too old fashioned, so nobody wants to wear them (except groups of national costumes and singers..). I think the ethnical jewellery of Europe is today outdated and not popular. Perhaps some day will come when people will come back to it, as is with most things. (e.g. names, the names for babies that are popular now, seem to take a circle, they were popular long ago, then fell in discredit and now are modern again.. ).