The deep-rooted tradition of jewellery

The 5,000-year-old jewellery tradition of Turkish lands is reflected in the Turkish jewellery industry’s exports to 153 countries.

The pleasure of beautiful jewellery and the skill of those who work with it were some of the common grounds for dozens of civilizations that have risen in Anatolia. From the Hittites to the Ottomans, all civilisations developed their own jewellery style and technique, and added their colours to this vibrant heritage. These are the milestones in the history that has transformed Turkey into a jewellery country with exports valued at nearly $2.6 billion. The Turkish jewellery industry has had to handle one crisis after another over the past four years, but despite all these fluctuations it has managed to increase its exports to $2.6 billion in 2015 from $1.2 billion in 2010. The tourism sales revenue is not represented in these figures. If the expected rate of over $1 billion in tourism sales were included, the gem export value would reach nearly $4 billion.

Looking back at the history of jewellery in these lands, the use of gems in Anatolia dates back to the Neolithic ages, when mankind began to establish permanent settlements. Excavations performed at Gobeklitepe, one of the most significant recent archaeological discoveries, revealed ornaments made of natural shells, glass, stone and malachite from around 7000–8000 BC.

The most impressive examples of jewellery-making – especially when the technology of the day is taken into consideration – were made in the Hittite period. Alongside gold and silver, precious stones such as emerald, ruby and agate were used during that time. Designers are still inspired by the rich and beautiful patterns found on belts, buckles, weapons, needles, earrings and bracelets created by the Hittites. Jewellery making also continued to develop in Anatolia during the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods when designs and production were enriched even further. The Seljuks was The one of the most notable civilizations to have shaped the style of jewellery in Anatolia; they introduced Central Asian patterns and techniques to these lands.

It was during the Ottoman period, however, that the Anatolian jewellery tradition enjoyed its golden era. The Ottoman period produced impressive pieces in terms of craftsmanship and technique. Even jewellery trade exhibitions were known to be held in Istanbul. Ottoman Sultans Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent were both jewellery-making master craftsmen.

New markets being explored

When we look at jewellery making today, Turkey still holds an important place in the industry in terms of design and production. Exports were focused mainly in Iran, the UAE and the US. The industry’s efforts in important markets such as Italy, Singapore, Poland, the UK and Romania also proved to be fruitful. Recently, the Qatari market has been standing out.

The finished gold jewellery and gem product groups have a significant share in the jewellery industry’s exports. Silver jewellery, ellery made of pearls and delicately beautiful bijouterie products are among the major items of export.

Design is of utmost importance

The Turkish jewellery industry is taking great strides in many fields. Work is focused primarily on technology and individuals in order to develop a qualified workforce. The Turkish jewellery industry knows that the most important added value in jewellery is design, and so it organizes competitions to open the door for new talent. In a similar vein, works are ongoing to make the Istanbul Jewellery Show one of the biggest trade exhibitions in the jewellery industry in the world. The most powerful purchase delegations will come to Turkey in 2016 to hold business meetings. As for the volume of those delegations from China and Europe, they represent more than 8,000 stores and over $50 billion in revenues.

Turkey combines its rich heritage with this modern technology to create gems that are in demand; many tourists who visit the country return home with a jewellery purchase that is a precious memento of their trip.