Friday, 3 pm
Silvio sits at the workbench, focused. His eyes still resting upon the current piece, as if the act of looking at it were part of the process (indeed it is), he stands and slowly walks away. He returns with a reference book, one he has used countless times as evidenced by the disintegrated binding and loose pages. But what a book! The photographs are stunning. Now, these capture his eye as he begins to formulate an answer to a recent Facebook question.
Yesterday, Jennifer Kovach Bishop, of The Farm Store, asked: “Can we talk more about tribal bracelets. What do you know about Eastern Europe ancient tribes?
A link to an article titled A man’s guide to wearing jewelry, and accompanied by the photograph of a South American Tribesman, had inspired the inquiry, which in turn inspired Silvio to share a few words about a topic for which he has great passion. Here’s what he had to say.
“The Scythians were a nomadic tribe from a vast region that included the north-eastern part of Europe. This is one of the most remarkable tribes. They were horsemen. They traveled and did not stay in one place long enough to build any sort of empire, so you would think they wound not stand out in history, but in my opinion, they were the most accomplished metal-smiths, and especially gold-smiths of their time and maybe even of all times.”
“Stunning early European gold and silver pieces were discovered in England. These date back to at least 400 BC and were clearly not made by the Celtic people. The craftsmanship and design are from the Scythians. Celtic jewelry was greatly influenced by this, I think.”
“Again, this is mostly my opinion, but their mastery of the art of gold-smithing and metal-smithing is unsurpassed. They were influenced by the cultures they encountered and they may have influenced the jewelry art of every one of these cultures too.”
“In tribal societies, the meaning of jewelry remains pretty much unchanged. It is always closely connected to their beliefs about nature and nature spirits, their conquests and their status within a tribe. Also, the very shape of an item that is found in nature, or received in trade, may influence how it will be included in a design and whether it feels more suitable to wear as a bracelet or a necklace, for example.”
You know how rings feel just right on some of your fingers, but not around others? We naturally assign special meaning to ancient jewelry, and this is often true, but we also forget that sometimes a piece’s design and how it is worn can be, even then, a simple matter of taste.
What stands out with the Scythians, as with the Greeks, is that many of their intricately designed jewelry depicted scenes from their daily life. In addition to this, the fact that they produced such complex and intricately designed ornaments is rather astonishing for a nomadic culture.
Hopefully, this answers your question, Jennifer. As you can imagine, a proper answer would probably turn into a year-long class. Hopefully this has provided an interesting overview that will pique your curiosity. Thank you for asking.