Russian jewelry art of the 19th century in the Republic of Buryatia

Earrings. Silver, corals. Relief work with inlaid patterns. L. 9,0 cm.
Earrings. Silver, corals. Relief work with inlaid patterns. L. 9,0 cm.


The art of metalworking occupied a significant place in the Buryat artistic creativity. Jewelry, various household utensils, religious objects were made by folk craftsmen-blacksmiths. Buryat blacksmiths used a variety of materials and processing techniques.

Jewelry made of metals and stones were widespread in Buryatia everywhere. They were worn both in the Baikal region and Transbaikalia. The division of the Buryats into Trans-Baikal (eastern) and Pribaikal (western) in the XIX century was determined not only by their geographical location, but also by the difference in economic structure and religious beliefs. There were noticeable differences in clothing and jewelry.
The festive attire of the Buryat women was quite heavy due to the abundance of jewelry. In addition to the basic jewelry that is common everywhere (rings, rings, earrings, beads, bracelets), they wore specific breast, head, belt jewelry, various pendants for braids.

Buryat jewelry. National Buryat clothing

National Buryat clothing is characterized by completeness and clarity of the silhouette. The constructive basis of it is a long robe, which girls and men belted with a belt. The brightness and decorative elements were distinguished, first of all, by jewelry of women’s folk costume. Women’s clothing was complemented by a sleeveless jacket. The main element of decorative finishing of clothing is color. Stripes of bright fabrics in white, yellow, blue, blue, red, purple, burgundy, green and other colors. Furs were sewn along the sides of the clothing, as well as on the hem, collar and sleeves. The decorations created an expressive and colorful color composition.

The color scheme of the clothes of the Baikal Buryats is more restrained and not so bright, although the cut and types of finishes are more diverse. In addition to the colored stripes, the clothes were decorated with embroidery, braid, and sheathed along the sides with silver, sometimes gold coins or mother-of-pearl buttons.
Structurally simple clothing was complemented by bright jewelry. Original metal products with massive silver pendants and filigree make up a single whole with the national Buryat costume.

Buryat jewelry
Woman’s ornament. Silver, corals. Chasing. D. 9,0 cm.

The main festive head decoration of buryats is a velvet or silk bandage on a birch bark base with a towering front part. Three rows of beads made of coral, amber, lapis lazuli, and turquoise were sewn on the fabric. Which formed a colorful color combination. Temporal pendants with coral beads were often attached to the bandage. The beads framed her face and fell to her chest. Sometimes this decoration was trimmed with sable or otter fur on top.

National headdress of the Buryats

The national women’s headdress — a cap made of colored cloth with a fur edging-was decorated with a pommel consisting of a silver cone-shaped body with a round colored stone on top. Everything was done exclusively by hand, which explains the variety of options for this decoration.
A very intricate head decoration was various pendants and chains suspended from two copper or gold sticks, which were horizontally stuck into the braids at the level of the ears. Velvet braid covers trimmed with silver, coral, and colored stones were also attached here. The capes served as a decoration of the woman’s hairstyle, and were also included in the set of the breastplate.

Buryat jewelry
Ring. Silver, metal, listvenite. Casting, engraving

Buryat necklaces

The breast decoration of a Buryat woman is a compositionally complex complex of various elements combined into a single developed whole. One of these ornaments, common among certain tribes of the eastern Buryats, consisted of various pendants in shape and size, fastened together. Each pendant had its own artistic and decorative solution. It was decorated with coral and colored stones. Together with a set of chains of complex weaving, they formed a necklace. With long three-centimeter hooks, the necklace was attached to the base of the braids behind the ears, hanging loosely over the chest. It swayed rhythmically as it walked and made a melodious ringing sound.

The chest decoration was widely used in Transbaikalia, the main elements of which were a massive silver, more often rectangular box and a large round medallion-an amulet for storing Buddhist prayers. The decoration was ornamented with zoomorphic and plant ornaments. And elements of Buddhist symbolism, made in bas-relief coinage with the use of engraving. The gilding of the protruding details, the matte finish of the background, the combination of high and low relief, enhancing the play of chiaroscuro, gave the product an increased decorative effect.

The decoration had many options, differing in a variety of shapes and compositions. A characteristic element of the breast ornaments were pendants with a coin in a wide filigree frame. They often ended with a bunch of silver toilet accessories: a toothpick, an earpick, tweezers for removing splinters, etc., as well as a small bell. These small elegant objects were hung on four-sided chains of Buryat weaving.


Buryat belts with silver engraved plaques or metal plates with a silver notch are particularly decorative. Which was one of the most common techniques of artistic metalworking among the Buryats.
The same objects of utilitarian purpose, including keys, were an integral part of the belt decoration, which was attached to the belt of a male or female suit. It consisted of a round decorative plaque (often in the form of a lion), connected by two convex halves. Such a badge was often decorated with enamel, inserts of colored stone or coinage. Elegant, elastic chains of various weaves with tightly fitted movable links add a special elegance to these ornaments.

Buryat jewelry
Head ornament. Silver, lazurite, corals, amber, leather, velvet. Filigree. L. 28,0 cm

Coins play a significant role in Buryat jewelry. Since the beginning of the XIX century, a Buryat girl wore a necklace made of silver coins of ruble value. The coins are set in copper plates with a loop at one end. Corals were strung between the coins. In the middle of the XIX century, gold coins were also used. These necklaces were worn in one, two, or three rows. Coral beads, bracelets, earrings, and rings were widely distributed. Bracelets can be round or flat cross-section, smooth or decorated with chased, engraved, with colored stones.


A spectacular decoration technique was gilding the surface of the bracelet around the colored inserts. This enhanced the color sonority of the decoration. In one bracelet, stones of different colors could be used, but in a limited number (three to five inserts). The bracelets were made open, without locks and with locks. The lock of the West Buryat bracelets consisted of two spherical parts that went behind each other. The lock on the bracelet was also a decorative element of the decoration.

Earrings were distinguished by a wide variety of artistic solutions and processing techniques. earrings usually had an elongated shape and consisted of a series of separate pendants. The earrings had a long hook threaded through the ear.


The ring is quite large in size, are usually made with inserts of coral and coloured stones in a remote setting. Often the stone was attached to a rod. Much attention was paid to the processing and ornamentation of the ring, which could be wide and narrow, flat and convex. The main method of making rings was casting with subsequent manual processing. The stamped pattern was manually finished by coining and engraving. The rings were worn several times on both hands.

Russian jewelry art of the 19th century in the Republic of Buryatia
Girdle. Silver, metal, leather, corals. Incision (toushing). L. 126,0 cm. W. 4,0 cm

Buryats made jewelry from silver, rarely from gold. They used a very diverse processing: coining, casting, stamping, slotting, filigree, grain, notching, engraving, blackening, canfaring, polishing, gilding, silvering. In Transbaikalia, coinage was the most common. Coinage was often combined with filigree and grain, less often with black and enamel. When minting, gilding of individual parts of the product, kanfarenye and small engraving of backgrounds were practiced. This emphasized the relief of the coinage and increased the play of chiaroscuro. Complex images of birds, lions, and fantastic dragons were minted. The incision, which reached a high artistic level among the Buryats, was developed mainly in the western regions.

A feature of the aesthetic taste of the Buryats is the love of bright and colorful. Jewelry, as a rule, had a colored solid material or stone: coral, amber, turquoise, malachite, topaz, from local stones-lapis lazuli, carnelian, jade. The most popular and often used material is coral, the combination of which with silver is especially effective. The principle of contrast is the most common decorative technique in solving a color composition. This gives Buryat jewelry a special decorative effect.


Along with the color, an important role in the decorative solution of products is played by the ornament. The Buryat ornaments are characterized by floral and geometric motifs. Stylized branches and flowers are combined with the simplest geometric patterns — circles, zigzags, horn-shaped curls, spirals, rosettes and plaits. Ornamental composition — regular-symmetrical. On round plates, the ornament is arranged in belts around the circumference, the center is emphasized by a color exhibition.

In the decorations of the Trans-Baikal Buryats, who adopted elements of Mongol-Chinese art, the ornamentation is characterized by a complex character of curved forms.
Along with the plant, zoomorphic motifs are widespread. Lions, fantastic dragons and birds, fish are intricately intertwined with ornately interpreted shells, lotus flowers, Sanskrit letters and some elements of Buddhist figurative symbols.

Original form of jewelry, bright polychromos and decorative nature ornamental motifs fill, as a rule, the entire surface of the product, volume of decor, accented by engraved, the combination of various techniques of decoration and as a result, a variety of textures create a distinctive artistic style Buryat jewelry and evidence of high level of craftsmanship Buryat jewelers.

The traditions of artistic metalworking are preserved and developed in the works of modern Buryat masters. Minting — the most popular at the moment. It is often combined with filigree, black and enamel. Modern works of Buryat craftsmen testify to the continuity of technical and artistic techniques of metalworking.

Girdle ornament. Silver, metal, amber. Chasing, enamel. D. 8,5 cm.
Girdle ornament. Silver, metal, amber. Chasing, enamel. D. 8,5 cm.