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 perform 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 burnish the damaged surfaces of metal goods. Jewellery, such as necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, were richly embellished with both Kalmyk and non-Kalmyk ornaments made of pearls, precious wood, and stones, both locally available and imported.

Aleksandr Koshevoi, Amulet Box

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.