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Sardinian jewels are typical of the island and are characterised by an ethnic style reminiscent of the deep-rooted culture of the Sardinian population. The Sardinian jewels are intrinsically linked to the traditional costume of the area and through their multi-faceted expressions, complete and adorn the costume providing typical decorative elements.

In the past the jewels bore a particular significance and the Sardinian women kept them and handed them down from one generation to the next, treating them as precious and sacred belongings. The most mystic significance of Sardinian jewellery (prendas) is revealed through their mythological origin according to which in their enchanted abodes (Domus de Janas) the fairies wove threads of gold and silver into a precious cloth which was richly embroidered with precious stones.

Indeed, in ancient times jewels were seen as a means of communicating with the gods, to elicit their favours or to exercise the powers of evil; a black stone (obsidian) at the centre of a silver circle (Sabeggia) was used to protect the newborn against the evil eye; a series of precious articles laid next to the departed ensured the safe-keeping of the body and subsequent rebirth; the exchanging of gifts heralded a promise of matrimony, where the jewel symbolised an alliance and a bond.

Of all the Sardinian crafts, the production of gold jewellery has been particularly influenced by other Mediterranean populations.

No continuous degree of unity can be observed among jewels created throughout the last centuries and the styles vary from province to province; eclectic elements have been applied to create particular types of articles. The external influence (particularly of a Tuscan and Catalan origin), contamination and syncretisms are easily identified and are justified by the fact that demand for these articles originated mainly from the hegemonic and religious classes, the latter for use as objects of cult. However, particularly in articles destined for use by the common people, evidence of formal local traditions can be observed which originate mainly from the south of the island.

Cagliari, Sassari and Iglesias were the most important centres for production of these goods although minor settings were established in smaller towns.



The creation of traditional artisan gold jewels is characterised by a large number of typical articles. Buttons, cuff-links, necklaces and pendants, chains, hooks, brooches, rings, earrings, amulets and sacred objects all form part of the traditional folk costumes which may be admired regularly both during the most important Sardinian festival of popular traditions, the Festival of Saint Efisio in Cagliari, and during other smaller, although by no means less characteristic, folk and religious festivals.



Brooches are present in almost all the traditional female costumes on the island. Basically there are two types: one is applied either to the cap or to tether the shawl or veil; the second ensures that the blouse remains perfectly buttoned down the front. The brooch to be worn on the headwear is of an extremely simple fashion and is often no more than a long pin with an elaborate filigree head or a head adorned by coral or mother-of-pearl. The styles and forms of these articles vary from village to village. The brooch to be worn on the breast is however rather more elaborate. Most particular are the sunflower-shaped brooches (e.g. the Sinnai brooch); these are rather large and have a ruby or a cameo set in the centre.



Two particularly characteristic types of necklace present in traditional Sardinian costume are "su Giunchigliu" ( a long gold chain with circular links which is wrapped around the neck several times) and "su Ghettau" where the links are transformed into large spherical shapes adorned with grains and filigree.

In the costumes from villages surrounding Cagliari, the jewels are larger and more numerous than those from the other areas of Sardinia. An abundance of gold chains, pendants and other trinkets may be observed, at times sufficient to cover the entire breast. On the contrary, the use of necklaces is less common than in the hinterland areas.

A particular type of jewel is represented by a pendant created from gold leaf which is cut, pierced and adorned with precious gems (cameos, rubies, etc) and is hung around the neck on a dark velvet ribbon. In Iglesias, where the art of goldsmiths dates back centuries and where still today there is a flourishing industry for the processing of precious metals, this type of jewel takes on various forms. The gold plaque may assume the form of a butterfly or a bow and is often adorned with tiny pearls. It may also be pierced and decorated with filigree.



In the past, only married or engaged women were permitted to wear rings, as a symbol of the fidelity or marriage vows. Habitually the costume used on feast occasions was adorned by only three rings.

ManinfideOne particularly characteristic ring is the "maninfide" (hands linked in an act of faith), the engagement ring with two linked hands engraved, symbolising the love pact. The shape and style of the "maninfide" rings varies throughout the provinces. Traditionally the fiancé made a gift of this ring to his future bride; in exchange he received a finely carved knife with a horn or bone handle with ornate engravings and brass embossments.



Of all the Sardinian jewels, earrings were undoubtedly the most commonly used article among the lower classes. Their forms, the materials used in their production and the methods applied are somewhat numerous. The Sardinian earring is traditionally made up of a drop-shaped piece of coral enclosed in a gold ring to which a hook is attached for introduction into the ear-lobe. Examples of earrings bearing coral cameos with a face engraved on their surface have been observed.

The earrings worn as part of the feast-day costume are particularly decorative and elaborate. Typical examples are the bow-shaped earrings ( with a pendant and inlaid precious stones) and the spatula earring ( generally butterfly-shaped and made from gold leaf). The tower-shaped earring is rather singular and is made up of two sections of a gold leaf cone or pyramid joined at their base and surrounded by fine filigree or grains; the figure of a bird, a peacock or a hen is often present at the top of the tower or pendant. Yet another traditional style dating back to the Phoenician - Punic era is represented by the half-moon earring: this is formed by a gold circle to be inserted through the lobe, ending in a double moon-shaped gold plaque with a bird depicted at its centre.

Finally mention should be made of the earrings depicting a bunch of grapes: small coral and gold seeds are pierced and joined together to resemble a bunch of grapes or a blackberry. This particular model, of Byzantine origin, is the most precious of all the earrings created in Sardinia and is the most difficult to style: at the centre of the circles two tiny gold vine leaves are welded, leaving a hanging tendril; minute stalks where the seed pearls will be attached are then added to the tendril, thus forming the bunch.



Buttons are most likely of Punic extraction (particularly the breast-shaped buttons) and are commonly worn in many costumes throughout the island. Pairs of cuff-links and buttons adorn the neck and cuffs of the blouses and waistcoats worn by both males and females.

Although they vary from place to place, the buttons are invariably rounded and resemble a pine cone, a breast or a pomegranate; a tiny cylinder inlaid with a turquoise or other semi-precious stone is mounted in the centre.



The chains, clasps and hooks are yet more elements which go to make up the traditional costume. They can assume most elaborate forms and basically are used to close the skirts, to tie the apron, to tether the headgear or to fasten the waistcoat.

In the styling of hooks and clasps, the predominant form is a heart shape, although examples depicting animals (birds, lions and horses) can be observed. The centre of the heart is adorned with additional decorations (birds, flowers, angels, spirals, the sun, the moon, stars etc). These articles are created through the fusion with cuttlefish bone and finished by hammering and filing.

In a similar fashion, various styles and decorations are used in the creation of chains, generally according to their final, practical use. All types of silver chain are invariably provided with hooks to enable their fastening to the apron, to the headgear or to the waistcoat. A particular type of chain is that used in several villages from the Campidano during traditional weddings (Matrimonio Selargino): this is represented by a one metre long thick silver chain with round links: one end of the chain bears a heart-shaped hook (which the groom attaches to the bride’s waist), whilst the other end bears a ring (which the bride puts onto the groom’s finger).



These singular articles constitute an integral part of the traditional costume and owe their presence to the folk legends which attempted to provide an explanation for the evil forces of nature. Amulets to ensure good health and considered to be infallible against the evil eye: many types existed for use in numerous situations. They often take on the form of phials, small bottles and other containers adorned with silver threads.

Talismans were widely used right up to the middle of this century. In view of their considerable beauty, they are still reproduced today for use as jewellery, but they no longer possess their original significance.

Mention should be made here of the spherical, polished black stone – obsidian; this was pierced and mounted on a silver bracket as a pendant. The bracket was decorated by a silver bow or flowers. Depending on its size and shape, this amulet was pinned to either a babies clothing or cot as a means of protection.

Another rather common amulet used against the evil eye is mother of pearl (commonly called Saint Lucia’s Eye), which was set in silver and decorated with spirals of filigree.

In the past, all sorts of objects and materials found or discovered in particular conditions became a means of fighting the evil eye. Accordingly, we may mention small branches of coral, pieces of cloth obtained from the robes of Saints, shards of glass, shells and animals teeth. The "sos chiririos", an array of many such objects joined together in a long silver chain according to an original and complex design, are of particular interest.

A brief mention should also be made to "sos breves", silver cases and folders of rare beauty which were pinned to the clothes and contained images, prayers, magic spells and various fragments. Traditionally of an oval or rounded form, they were created from silver leaf and decorated with filigree.




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