Smithery and Jewellery

Metal items used in traditional households were many, including various knives, tweezers, stirrups, belt buckles, utensils, boxes, tools, and many others. Although blacksmiths constituted a separate profession, in the past many ordinary nomads could do simple smithery on their own, including repairing metal tools, utensils, and other iron hardware.

Kalmyk jewellers traditionally used various metals in their line of work, including iron, silver, gold and copper. A special mixture consisting of silver, tin, copper, borax and sulphur was widely used to repair the damaged surface of metal goods. Jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings were richly decorated with both Kalmyk and non-Kalmyk ornaments made of pearls, precious wood and semiprecious stones such as coral, turquoise or jasper.

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, About smithery and ornaments
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-03-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, A tobacco pipe
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-03-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, A Kalmyk knife
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-03-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
  • ItemOpen Access
    Dordzhi Nandyshev, about smithery and metalwork
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-05-04) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Churyumov, Anton; Sandzhiev, Artur
    Dordzhi talks about metalwork he and his brother do: My younger brother put a stove in his stone barn and, looking on the internet, made metalwork. He can now make knives and horse halters. I myself make ‘bows’ on the Kalmyk saddles from metal pipes. I also made nyarin shinj (a game with rings), chairs and tobacco pipes. Kalmyk pipes has a metal lid and a stick to clean the inside.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, How to Make Earrings
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-04-02) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
    Nikolai explains how to make earrings. First, one should draw a picture, prepare a plate and join the different parts later. The earring in the video is of a triangle shape. Rings could be of a different shape, contain various stones, and be made by various methods. The surface should be polished and clean. Each master has his/her stamp on the product to verify authorship and quality.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, About Tools and Instruments
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-04-02) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
    Nikolai says masters use various tools that have various purposes. Tools should be made from quality materials and honed correctly. Nikolai makes auxiliary tools himself. Tools that he uses are as follows: soldering tools, tweezers, a small metal barrel on which to engrave products, files, hammers etc. Nikolai recalls that when he was a child he received a metalwork set as a present. Today, by contrast, such sets for children are not produced anymore. Nikolai thinks that this set may have influenced his choice of his profession.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, About the Properties of Various Metals
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-04-02) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
    Nikolai says that metal cools down and hardens. To soften it, the master needs to heat the metal continuously. When struck with a hammer, metal plates change their form and become thinner and wider. Precious metals could be melted several times. Softer metals do not require heating up. In the video Nikolai makes a silver buckle for a belt. He says that silver is a soft and flexible metal. The buckle should be thick rather than thin. The belt could be shortened or prolonged by adding or removing silver plates. Usually such belts are used in families through generations. Today Kalmyk belts made from silver plates are rare. Nikolai starts by drawing a picture of a belt. Then he prepares silver for the plates and the buckle. Before polishing, the silver parts need to go through several stages of preparation. After the metal parts are ready, they are attached to the belt. Nikolai says that hand-made silver parts are always better than factory made ones. The buckle may have floral ornaments or other symbols of wellbeing, luck or continuous movement. The ornaments should not only symbolize something, but they should be aesthetically beautiful as well. Not only are traditional ornaments informative in terms of signs but they are also simple shape-wise.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Nikolai Galushkin, A Kalmyk Belt
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-05-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
    Nikolai shows a man’s belt called khavsn byus. It is the most widespread belt both in terms of its shape and composition. Nikolai’s belt is a modern interpretation of the traditional belt. It contains half a kilo of silver. Silver should be cleaned with lemon acid or soda. The belt itself is made from cow’s pelt dyed brown. It took Nikolai about a month to finish this belt. Nikolai says that Kalmyk silver belts are often decorated with niello which is unknown among Western Mongols.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Exhibition: Jewellery
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-27) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumov, Anton
    This video features Kalmyk jewellery displayed at an exhibition at the National Museum in Elista in April 2015.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Aleksandr Koshevoi, Amulet Box
    (2016-03-09) Kovaeva, Bair; Churyumov, Anton; Terbish, Baasanjav
    Aleksandr displays an old amulet box that he found at the place where the Iki-Chonosovsky temple stood in the past. He relays a story he heard from his grandfather about that temple. This happened sometime between 1910 and 1913 when his grandfather was a young boy. He witnessed the cremation of a monk in that temple. After the ceremony the Kalmyks took pinches of the monk's ashes and put them in small leather bags. Inspired by his find, Aleksandr made an amulet box from brass. He supplemented it with a small statue of Buddha made from clay and a small bag to keep the amulet box inside. This amulet was consecrated by the Dalai Lama's oracle himself when he visited Kalmykia. Aleksandr has produced four amulet boxes so far.