Traditional Ukrainian Jewelry
Korali are the most traditional Ukrainian necklace. Korali consist of imported coral beads, strung on a thread. The number of strands varies from 1 to 25, each named "razka" (roughly translated as ‘just one’). You could tell the more well-off girls, as they had the thickest coral strands, treated in the shape of ovals and ‘barrels’. Those less wealthy mostly had necklaces with fewer strands and the beads were shaped as small cylinders.
Korali were often combined with other elements of traditional folk jewels and accessories - Dukaches, sablas, Venetian beads, pearls, depending on the region of a family’s residence and prosperity.
Our ancestors believed that korali weren’t simply an accessory, but also a charm and an amulet, characterized by certain magical properties. Beads were thought to protect from evil forces and curses and were a symbol of maiden beauty and health.
Dukach is a medal- or coin-shaped ornament with a metal bow, decorated with stones and jewels. Dukach served as a compositional center of all necklaces and was fixed in the most focal point of accessories. The basis for making this kind of jewelry were Austrian coins and rubles, which differed in the theme of images from portrait to carved biblical scenes.
The history of the emergence of Dukaches dates back times of recruited Kozaks. For their service in the Austria-Hungarian, Swedish and French forces Kozaks were paid in Thalers or gold coins. However sometimes, instead of the gold coins Kozaks were paid with commemorative medals, the weight of which was multiple of the number of gold coins. Such medlas were created by the best masters of Western Europe, for example, a German goldsmith Sebastian Dadler, who was famous for his custom orders for the Crowned Heads all over Europe.
These accessories were very popular in the Poltava region. Many explain the existence of numerous Russian coins in Dukaches the following way. Catherine the Great gifted coins with her portrait to local women for their bravery shown during the battles against the Swedes which took place nearby Poltava. Legend has it that when the Swedish troops were close to celebrating victory they were suddenly ambushed by an armed group of locals – women, dressed in men’s clothes desperately trying to protect their homes.
Ducats are coins strung on a thread and joint together forming a necklace. As a rule ducats were intertwined with glass or coral beads, and were made from real gold coins.
In the region of Bukovyna women wore Salby – a version of silver Dukaches that eventually evolved into necklaces, sewn onto textile. Traditionally, Salby was a gift girls received for their 1st birthday from their godfather. Such decorations are part of the national costumes of many Slavic and Turkic peoples.
Zgarda is a traditional Hutsul accessory-amulet, consisting of several cast crosses, with brass or copper elements strung on a dart or strap in between. Despite the fact that zgardy are traditionally associated with Christian beliefs, this accessory actually has a much more ancient history.
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 birthday 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.
Massive zgardy with a big crucifix were called ‘gazdivski’ – from the word ‘gazda’ or man of the house, as these were mostly worn by rich and respected men.
Patsyorka is a necklace, made of various materials, mainly consisting of one strand. These kinds of necklaces were first created from cheap translucent glass and later - from expensive Venetian beads.
Particularly popular jewelry in Western Ukraine were beaded necklaces - gerdan, kryzy and sylyanky.
Traditional Gerdan ornamanets were geometric ‘diamonds’, strung on a ribbon and connected with multicolored beads, forming a striking original pattern, complementing the embroidery on shirts. This element of traditional costume of Ukrainian women was also considered a kind of an amulet. One wasn’t supposed to give a Gerdan to another person. These ornaments symbolized the eternity of spiritual being.
Kryzy are wide round collars, made of beads with geometric and floral ornaments. Such necklaces covered a woman’s neck, chest and shoulders.
Sylyanky also called Pletinky are multi-colored strips of beads. Sylyanky were also used as amulets, whose value and strength differed depending on the ornament.