Glowing Tribal Jewelry
An exhibit of rare and ancient jewelry at Tambaran Gallery.
“Adornment is a universal ritual and reflects how individuals choose to identify themselves,” says Tambaran Gallery owner Maureen Zarember, a top collector of tribal art and one of the few women in the field. “It displays the wearer’s religious beliefs, social and economic status. My goal is to introduce and reintroduce 21st Century women to the beauty of jewelry that is made by hand and unique to particular cultures.”
The jewelry in the new exhibit is from 32 countries and is valued from $300 to over $100,000. It includes rare and ancient pieces from South America, India, Oceania, and Africa as well as mid-20th century pieces from the American Southwest. Highlights include the 22K gold Hair Ornament (above) on the catalog cover. Made in South India, it was designed to adorn a bun and is composed of 37 radiating spikes surrounded by a ring. The piece is unique both for its large size and use of gold.
Above left: A 1950s Indian Pendant six inches long from the American Southwest purchased originally by Andy Warhol. The striations of a leaf design are carved into the turquoise that is signed, stamped, and set into a silver bezel with 18 blood coral elements. The silver suspension loop is also inlaid with turquoise. Above right: An exceptionally important 19th century Tibetan Ear Ornament from Lhasa Tibet in the Himalayas. Almost six inches long, the ornaments were made of 22K gold, silver, turquoise, and resin. Unique to Tibetan culture, they were worn on festive occasions by women of considerable wealth and status. Each was balanced on the temple of the head and secured in the hair with the aid of red cotton threads to support the weight.
Above left: A Hawaiian Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa) features a carved sperm whale hook attached to multiple strands of braided human hair gathered into bundles. It was worn only by important male and female members of the ruling class. Right: A Tahitian Lei Necklace strung together in alternating rows of white and dusty rose colored shells that was collected during the Crane Pacific expedition in 1928-29. Included with the necklace is a detailed hand-written label.
Above left: A South Indian Necklace consisting of thirty-eight gold mango elements studded with rubies and a central diamond strung on a flat woven gold wire chain. The central floral pendant is set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds with seventeen gold spheres. The back closure is a typical two-part screw fastening, most likely a dowry piece. Right: A Moche Maskette made of gold, gilded copper, shell, and lapis lazuli from Loma Negra, North West Coast of Peru, and dated 100 BC to 600 AD. This maskette was most likely aﬃxed to a burial object or attached to the outerfabric layer of a mummy wrapping.
Above left: A rare beaded Tutsi Necklace from the 19th century Congo or earlier; 112 mult- strands of Venetian trade beads are strung on natural ﬁber. The color of the bead is extremely rare and it is theorized that trade beads disappeared into rivers and deep lakes as tokens in exchange for safe passing. Right: A 14th Century Parrot Necklace from Java, Indonesia, over 5 inches long. Gold stylized parrot cutouts are restrung with ancient dark blue Chinese glass beads. This is one of two necklaces found in a burial jar with ancient beads; the second necklace is in a private collection in San Francisco.
Above left: A 19th Century Gold Prayer Box (Ga’hu) unique to Tibetan culture that was a container for written prayers to appease evil spirits. Women wore these personal adornments during festive occasions to show status and wealth. Right: Two Nias Head Ornaments from Batu Island, Indonesia. One has four gold repousse roundels with orange glass beads. The other has five flower-like ornaments with a central stamen; it is strung with dark rose beads and gold spacers. An old post card published in Nias Tribal Treasures depicts a Batu Island bride wearing this piece as a crown.
The exhibit runs through March 31st and is open to the viewing and buying public.
Doris Goldstein has written on jewelry, design, and antiques for Art & Auction, Art & Antiques, Town & Country and other publications.