Ukrainian ‘Korali’ AKA ‘Namysto’ or simply a necklace, is probably the most common women’s jewelry in Ukraine.
Ukrainian necklaces came in different colors, shapes, materials, and even in ways of wearing them. Necklaces made from expensive natural materials, like coral, amber, pearls, garnets, glass and glazes were considered the most valuable ones. In some parts of Western Ukraine there was an archaic tradition of wearing necklaces made from shrub ‘beads’, called klokichka. In the XIX century, imported necklaces, with garnet and cobalt glass embelishments, were especially popular among the wealthier strata of the population. Hutsul necklaces, with Venetian glass beads, imported from Italy, were of great value as well.
Amber necklaces were typical for Left-Bank Ukraine. Wearing an amber necklace was supposed to bring health and good luck. It was typical to wear one long strand with massive amber stones combined with coral beads.
Coral necklaces were, by far, the most popular in Ukraine, although these also remained inaccessible to the poorer people. The necklace’s popularity and value explains its many names - good necklace, genuine or true necklace, wise necklace etc. Corals were different in quality, size, finish, color shades. Cheaper corals were small, cut in the form of tubes, small cylinders (known as ‘spiky necklace’). Expensive red coral was treated into oval or barrel shapes. The number of strands in a coral necklace (rich ladies would have up to 25) and the nature of stone treatment were indicative of the family’s wealth.
In the Carpathian Mountains coral necklaces were also decorated with ‘zgardy’. Zgarda was an amulet in a specific form of a cross. Zgardy were first gifted to girls at the age of six, usually for their ‘urodyny’ or name day. Every next year another set of identical crosses would be given to her and placed on each side of the first one. Over time, the number of amulets grew and decorations would overlay in several rows. These kinds of necklaces served primarily as protective amulets.
Women of different age were expected to wear different kinds of necklaces: in mourning and during lent women would wear milk colored or transparent glass beads necklaces instead of red ones. In their 30s women would often give up wearing necklaces altogether. Elderly ladies either wore no jewelry or very little and it had to be subtle – necklaces in dark colors and small quantities. During holidays, going to church or to zabavas, women would cover the entire chest with ‘curtains’ of multicolored beads. Wealthier girls would wear real coral necklaces, while those less well-off were limited to necklaces made of colored glass.
People believed that necklaces had special medicinal and even magical properties. For instance, it was believed that necklaces protected from illnesses. A necklace thread breaking, on the other hand, predicated misfortune for its owner.