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Bridal gifts and festive costume: jewellery and dress from the Balkans – Ruth Tomlinson

Bridal gifts and festive costume: jewellery and dress from the Balkans -British Museum gallery talk

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I cycled over to the British Museum at lunchtime today- to hear a talk by curator Judy Rudoe. She spoke about the traditional embroidered wedding clothes and heavy jewellery worn during the late 19th and early 20th century in the Balkans. Examples are displayed in Room 2 of the Museum at the moment. Made from local materials, fabrics were thickly woven woolens and heavy felt. Detailed embroidery curled around necklines, sleeve openings and hemlines to ward away evil spirits. 

Silver head-dresses were hung with hundreds of light-weight Turkish coins, to rustle and shimmer with movement. Heavy belts with large clasps were worn low on the waist, to protect the abdomen and child-bearing area. The jewellery would have been given by the groom to his bride, during the celebrations. 

 

Many of the stones and metals were chosen for their amuletic qualities, which I found really interesting. The colour red was very prominent in the designs for the bridal wear, and one of the pieces I loved the most, a bridal head-dress included some beautiful coral between rows of small coins. 

Many of the pieces which looked like necklaces and earrings, were actually pendants to be clipped to a headscarf, and were worn as ornaments to frame the face. The image above shows some of the fragile metalwork pendants. I was also particularly drawn to the delicate filigree work - as seen in this unusual belt -

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