In ancient times, as today, women adorned themselves with different and sometimes extravagant pieces of jewelry. Not only were they just pretty “baubles”, but they also had a special significance and many served as talismans and amulets.
For example, neck ornaments protected women from evil, magic spells and disease, and were also symbols of health and maiden beauty. Women believed that misfortune would befall any person whose necklace thread broke and the beads scattered.
Over the years, Ukrainian jewelry, which was formed in ancient times, has changed its shape, size, material, colour, meaning…
The most common traditional Ukrainian decorations were necklaces. Women wore them on weekdays and during festivals, family celebrations and festivities. The more rows of ornaments a woman wore, the more prosperous and beautiful she was.
Necklaces or neck ornaments were often combined with other interesting pieces: dukachi, gerdany, salby, beads and pearls, which adorned beautiful Ukrainian embroidered clothing to create a perfect traditional image. Red was the most popular colour. It was the colour of courage and love, symbolizing inexhaustible strength and energy.
Necklaces were initially made from plants, such as rowan berries, fruit stones, nuts and seeds. Subsequently, clay, wood, corals, pearls, different semi-precious stones, metals and precious materials were used.
The dukach (lichman, yagnus) is a Ukrainian ornament consisting of a large medallion-type coin adorned with a metal bow and decorated with small stones. The dukach was the centerpiece of all neck ornaments and was attached to the most prominent part of the necklace. As a rule, it was made of coins, and goes way back in history… to the time of the Cossacks.
The salba is a massive necklace consisting of a fabric embroidered with different coins. Such jewelry is typical of Bukovyna and very similar to Turkish, Tatar and Moldavian ornaments.
Dukaty are coins used to enhance and call attention to a woman’s beauty and wealth. Both coins and beads were strung on a strong thread and fastened together to form an exquisite neck ornament.
Patsiorky refers to large, small and relatively expensive beads, which were usually made of handmade decorated glass. Every young girl dreamed of owning several rows of patsiorky. The most precious patsiorky were made from Murano glass, and were often referred to as “venetsiyky”.
Lampworking or flameworking/torchworking was used to create these magnificent “trinkets”. This refers to a type of glasswork where a torch or lamp is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements.
The zgarda is a traditional Hutsul decoration. It consists of one, two or three rows of copper crosses strung on a band, string or wire, between which copper tubes or spirals were attached. Zgardy were given to young girls on their sixth birthday and worn around the neck. Another row was added every year. The Hutsuls believed that these ornaments contained great power to ward off evil spirits, so the more rows you wore, the more you were protected. .
Gerdany are one of the most beautiful neck ornaments worn by women today and in ancient times. Great patience was required to create such a colourful ornament from tiny beads. Gerdany were popular among women in Halychyna, Podillya and Volyn, and the design of these neckpieces depended on particular regional characteristics. Oddly enough, these ornaments were originally worn by men. Only later were they adopted by Ukrainian women.
A kryza refers to a peculiar beaded collar of different sizes. The largest could cover a woman’s neck and shoulders. The name comes from the German word “Kreis”, which means “circle”. Lemko kryza-collars could measure up to 20 cm in width. Beads in the form of a rounded lacelike collar create a vivid multi-coloured decoration over a woman’s blouse.
Sylyanky are intricately intertwined neck ornaments. The name is derived from the technique of threading/stringing beads.