Jewelry art in Georgia is original and unique. The clean azure of the sky and the emerald of grass, the gold of the sun and the purple of tart wine: all these colors are in perfect harmony intertwined in jewelry, made according to the ancient Georgian enamel technique called minankari. Today we will tell you the history of the emergence and development of this branch of jewelry art, which is actively developing today, pleasing us with exquisite ornaments.
Minankari: General information
The collection of medieval artifacts made in the cloisonné enamel technique, which in Georgia is known as minankari, is one of the richest collections in the world. The earliest artifacts in the technique of minankari go back to the 8th-9th centuries. Minankari technique was borrowed from the masters of ancient Byzantium. Not surprisingly, the majority of products are made with religious motifs. The collection of medieval enamels is kept in the State Museum of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, as well as in such world-famous museums as the Hermitage, Metropolitan, the National Museum in Berlin, etc.
The central icon of the triptych of Kakhul depicting Virgin Mary is considered the largest example of cloisonné enamel in the world (its dimensions are 116 cm x 95 cm). Combining a large number (115 plates with enamel coating) of medieval enamels from different eras and origins (both Georgian and Byzantium) into a harmonious whole, the icon of Kakhul can be regarded as a small «museum of minankari». The icon is even compared to the rich treasury of Venetian enamels, especially the famous Pala d’Oro in the Basilica of St. Mark.
The art of minankari had developed in Georgia until the 15th century. Middle Ages are considered the golden age in the history of the country. Then the process of the development of the technique of cloisonné enamel went into decline and gradually disappeared. However, it wasn’t until two decades ago, that a handful of enthusiasts decided to revive the ancient art traditions of Georgian jewelry craftsmanship and opened an art gallery “Ornament”, where they collected works of minankari craftsmen and organized exhibitions, which has become a real event. Today the «Ornament» gallery actively promotes the development and dissemination of minankari art.
The technique of minankari is a laborious and painstaking process that cannot be mechanized. And this means that it is almost impossible to find two identical ornaments. Each product is a unique hand-made work. It is also worth mentioning that minankari enamel is used only in conjunction with noble metals: gold and silver. With other metals, the enamel “is not friendly”, changes its color and does not stick to the base. Firs, the craftsman gets the desired pattern of fine silver thread-partition, and then glues to the base with glassy minankari and finally fills the colored enamel. Then the product is sent into the oven. Enamel, like many centuries ago, is obtained from natural mineral stones.
Minankari: where to buy?
You will probably agree that minankari hand-made jewelry is unique and original, thereby ideally represents the identity of Georgia, which is exactly what you need as a souvenir or gift to family and friends. These exquisite jewelries will decorate any fashionable look: a palette of colors with Georgian national motifs will not leave anyone indifferent and will become a desired gift. To find minankari jewelry will not be a difficult task: they are sold in any souvenir shop, in the Flea Market, in special workshops where you can observe the process of creating minankari and even become a direct participant. Price, depending on the metal and the complexity of the mosaic, varies. The style of decoration is also very different: ethnic, modern, minimalistic, and even with reproductions of paintings by the great artists of the 20th century: Dali, Klimt, Picasso and Modigliani.