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Zhanyl Sharshembieva and Syrgak Aitkulov

Beautiful jewelry from Kyrgyzstan

For years, Zhanyl Sharshembieva has produced a range of silver items—from broad, gleaming cuff bracelets, to rings set with jasper, turquoise, or coral, to delicately configured, intricately designed pendants, in traditional Kyrgyz style. Though her methods might have ancient regional precedents, Sharshembieva’s accessories have a timeless sophistication and a universal appeal. All of the silver Sharshembieva uses is mined in Kyrgyzstan, and coral is often extracted from unused garments or jewelry, to be repurposed by Sharshembieva.

Other stones, like turquoise, come from America and India, with jasper and others sourced from Russia. The jewelry-making process begins with a sketch. Then, from silver ingots, flat sheets are rolled and then shaped or cut into various designs. Embellishments such as delicate silver balls or symbols are sometimes soldered onto silver bases, and stones are placed within beveled settings. Finally, finished items are polished to a gleaming sheen.

Since ancient times in Kyrgyzstan, silver jewelry has been considered an integral part of dressing up for special occasions and ceremonies. In modern times, Kyrgyz jewelry has changed little; silver-worked art is one of the oldest forms of traditional Kyrgyz folk art, the possession of which was once rare. Bequeathed from one generation to the next by ancestors, Kyrgyz jewelry traditionally contained important meaning, conveyed in symbols designed to ward off evil. Zhanyl Sharshembieva has been recognized by UNESCO for her outstanding creativity and also for the inherent quality of her work.