Jewelry guide to Tbilisi, Giorgia

Tbilisi turned out to be a true revelation for me. You either fall in love with it at first sight or you never will. In this city western and eastern motifs are intertwined in a bizarre manner. Orthodox churches, paved streets, colorful carved balconies with oriental pattern elements, architectural monuments of Stalinist neo-classicism with Mauritanian ornaments, high-tech glass-and-steel constructions of modern architecture, narrow streets with dilapidated houses, buildings in pseudo-gothic style and a large number of small sculptures, scattered around the city give it a touching charm and coziness.

In Tbilisi the East and the West converge and organically merge into a single whole, revealing to the world an amazing harmony and value for culture and history.

My jewelry related voyage started with a visit to the the Georgian National Museum. I was interested to see the collection of archeological treasures,  gold and silver items discovered throughout the Giorgian territory. The collection includes a big number of objects and represents the history of Giorgian culture from the second half of the 3rd millennium BC to the 4th century AD.

Necklace. Armaziskhevi burial. VI century A.D.
The open-worked necklace is adorned with granulation and inlaid with turquoise almadine gems

Goblet. Trialeti barrow. XVIII-XVII centuries B.C.
Made on a lathe from a single piece of gold. Doulble wall body is decorated with volute-shaped applications and inlaid with cornelian and lapis lazuli. The bottom is inlaid with amber and jet.

Headdress. Vani burial. IV century B.C.

Belt. Vani burial. IV century B.C.

The exhibition is divided into several parts. The first section is dedicated to ancient gold and silver objects, jewelry and other  items used in rituals, found during excavations on the burial mounds of Kartli, Kakheti and Trialeti, dating from the III-II centuries BC.

Kolkhetian jewelry of the V-IV century BC was found on the territory of the ancient kingdom of Kolkheti, or Colchis, known to us from the ancient Greek myth of the Argonauts, who travelled there seeking the Golden Fleece. The golden treasures found in the mounds of the cities of Vanya and Sarki show striking  technique and craftsmanship.

Beautiful jewelery pieces of the III century BC-IV century AD were discovered in a unique Akhalgori treasury in eastern Georgia. They were created for the nobility living in this territory before the establishment of the Kingdom of Kartli (Iberia). The treasures found in burial sites ,by members of royal families and local aristocracy, are excellent examples of royal wealth and power.

The art of cloisonné enamel has been known in Georgia since ancient times, but it reached its golden age in the Middle Ages. Closely connected with the Byzantine world, Georgian enamels absorbed the traditions of the Byzantine school, creating unique works and adapting them to the Georgian manner of  representation. In the XV century jewelry made with this technique was no longer found and the secrets of this technology was lost.

Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

 

In the XX century  a new era of rebirth of the Georgian enamel begun. In the 80s Lithuanian artist Rimas Burneika arrived in Tbilisi. He tried to recreate the lost enamel technique, which was slightly different from the medieval one. He used wire, not strips, as partitions. At that time he studied with local artists Zaza Lodia and Goga Kupradze. They experimented with enamel for a long time and finally succeded in the restoration of the traditional technique. Thus the history of the modern Georgian enamel school began.

Zaza Lodia

In 1998 Tbilisi art historians Iya Dvali, Maya Nozadze and Khatuna Chkheidze opened the Chardin gallery, dedicated to the promotion of modern Georgian art.

 

In the gallery you can see the works of the modern artist Sopho Gongliashvili. Her jewelry makes a very strong  impression. The choice of colors and shapes makes it stand out among thousands of others. The artist wants to convey  a certain idea or tell a story. In jewelery pieces with crocodiles, it’s clear that something good is inherent in all of us. Next to them are flowers – which  means that there’s good even in crocodiles and that you need to find this good and reveal it to the world.

Quite by chance I managed to get acquainted with the enamel artist Tamuna Bedzhashvili and get into her studio. She is a self-taught jeweler and has been working with enamels for 12 years, ten of which as the main artist of “Monte” jewelrystores .

I was very lucky: I found her while she was working.

She was adding transparent enamel to a previously prepared silver base. Then Tamuna put the piece in a special furnace with thick walls and baked it at a temperature of 800 ° C for no more than two minutes. After that the artist created a beautiful pattern with the thinnest silver stripes and then  she filled the cells that had formed with different enamel colors. The jewelry was baked over and over. Each time Tamuna added enamel layers filling the form to the brim.

In 2000 the famous enamel artist Tea Gurgenidze together with her friends Khatuna and Marina Babunashvili founded the “Ornament” gallery which was dedicated entirely to the restoration and development of Georgian cloisonné enamel tradition and its integration in global art culture. You can read more about my visit here.

At the beginning of the 2000s  international exhibitions were organized,  enamel workshops were made and many people keen on newly discovered technology studied it extensively. Today we can surely talk more about the Tbilisi enamel school rather than the Georgian one, since nearly no one works with it in the other regions.

If you ever decide to travel to Tbilisi and want to buy  cloisonné enamel jewelry, I advise you not to go to the souvenir shops or to the flea market on the Dry Bridge, where there is a lot of consumer goods and impersonal jewelry works. Instead go straight to the art galleries, where you can find the artisan’s unique pieces, of  high artistic level, which are created in such a way that you can feel the artist’s personal expression, his vision and interpretation of age-old traditions.

 

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