Dukach – a decoration in the form of a medal pendant, which girls wore around their neck, strung on a ribbon as a symbol of maturity and the transition from childhood to adulthood.
The word ‘dukach’ is the Ukrainian derivative from ‘ducat’, the name of Western European gold coins, which came from Venice and were used in 1284. The Dukach (in 19-20 cc.) varied in material and artistic value - from carefully crafted jewelry to primitive penny stamped plaques. It was an accessory used for both festive and daily ocasions worn by both adult women and little girls. Dukaches were passed from mother to daughter or, otherwise, had to be ordered or purchased from craftsmen. Women’s jewels often cost a lot more than a family’s entire household.
So what was a dukach and what did it represent? These decorations were a medal pendant, sometimes attached to a bow-brooch. The bow represented a ribbon tied at four loops, with two branches coming from the center, and a crown placed between the upper loops. Sometimes the bow was covered with faceted glass. This kind of dukach was more typical for Left-bank Ukraine. Sometimes true 17-18 century medals from Western Europe and Russia were used for the dukach medallions. But usually these were created in the workshops of jewelers, goldsmiths in the stamping technique. To complement the dukachi, goldsmiths also made earrings, rings, "puhvytsi" or "riffs" that were strung on necklaces with coral beads.
The simplest kind of dukach was a medal with a loop made of dark copper or light brass – as a king of gold imitation.
Some types dukaches: ‘Koronatka’ (crown dukach) In the 18th century the Catholic Church began the practice of coronating icons. The first coronation of this kind took place in 1717. Monasteries and churches showed great interest in the coronation of relics, because it promised to increase the number of pilgrims and worshipers and, consequently, profits and also the growing influence of the Catholic Church.
As part of this ‘propaganda’ special medals were made and consecrated in Rome. These were minted from silver or brass and reflected mainly the cult of the Virgin Mary and the Heart of Jesus. These kinds of dukach were mostly typical for the region of Poltava. Often one could find portraits of Empresses on the dukach medals, often this was the portrait of Catherine the Great which, later on, spawned a huge number of repetitions and replicas. With time’s passing and with many repetitions the image became less clear and traits became distorted and quite ugly. This type of pendants later developed into a whole era, a final era of the dukach pendants.
Information & photo source: І.Спаський “Дукати і дукачі України”