Ukrainian neck ornaments in history and their symbolism

Slavic culture was always very vibrant in it’s looks, this is why women used to enhance their beauty with items such as necklaces. In case of Ukraine women loved “Namysto” which were one of the oldest forms of Beaded necklaces and in general women ornaments in Ukraine. There are other Ukrainian names for such necklaces like busy, korali, monysto and similar depending on region and era we are talking about. However don’t be fooled that these necklaces only were worn as an adornment, they actually had a much deeper and symbolic significance.

In Ukraine they divided jewelry in two types, one was namysto and other was dukach (also now as “dukati” in other Slavic countries), but if they would combine namysto and dukach they would for a new set of jewelry called monysto. It’s materials were pretty common such as metals, stones, corals, glass, leather, wood etc. We have already made a post on different types of wood and their meaning in Slavic amulets before so read that too. Anyway, these amulets were used to protect those who wear them but also show information on who they are, how wealthy they are and similar.

Necklaces in history

Women in Ukraine wear such necklaces for centuries, actually even today which means this is still a very popular decorative element in Slavic populations. Traditionally beads were made in varied colors, forms and materials so Necklaces (namysto) have been worn by Ukrainian women for centuries, which means that there is a wide variety of this decorative element. In medieval Slavic countries neck ornaments were also made of vegetable seeds, fruits but with time they were replaced by stone, metals and glass. As population advanced so did the production of such jewelry did too, so expensive variants were made of sorals, amber, pears and similar. Only wealthy bourgeois women could afford the latter. (h/t: eumaidan)

Significance of such jewlery

It’s an interesting fact that many Ukrainian women would never leave her home if her neck wasn’t covered – they felt naked without their necklace. It was a part of daily dress-code and they wore it for all occasion from festivals, celebrations but even during work or average daily activities. Woman status was easily seen by the quality of her necklace. Necklaces were also amulets, protecting her from evil spirits and bad people.

Fact: The poorest wore 2-3 rows of coral, while the rich – 10 to15.

Jewelry made of metal

There were also many varieties of metal beads:

  • salba – ornament made of fabric, adorned with coins, modeled after Turkish, Tatar and Moldovan jewelry. They were worn mostly by women from Bukovyna.
  • dukach (lychman) – ornament resembling a coin with a bow form. Austrian ducats were used originally, Russian rubles were added later on, but the old name remained. Such necklaces were worn in Central and Eastern Ukraine.

Jewelry made of Amber

Capatian region is very famous for very vibrant folk decorative elements this is why women loved necklaces of perfect amber and other semi-precious stones. Amber will bring you health and it would make their skin look smoother and attractive. These beads were shaped with knives during their production.

Jewelry made of Coral

Coral is very popular across Ukraine even today, so these colorful red rows were always nice to wear with traditional white embroidered shirts and dresses. Coral in Slavic tradition has been preserved as one elemental material for such items. These coral beads came in variety of colors but most popular were: red, grey, pink, green. Slavs traditionally believed that red coral necklace would grant it’s wearer health, strengths and warded them from disease.

Jewelry made of Glass and Pearls

Patsyorky was the name given to very expensive hand-painted glass beads that Ukrainian women acquired from Venice. Naturally because it was an imported good, only the wealthy ones would wear this because Venetian master craftsmen kept their Murano glass secret only for themselves. Pears were as well expensive due to the fact they were imported.

Jewelry – Biser

It was manufactured at first from Murano but then later these beads were mass produced in Czech Republic. Every Ukrainian female wanted to have one and bought them with pleasure. They call them “tsyatky” (as a biser necklaces are still called in Bukovyna).

Neck ornaments are still an important part of Ukrainian and Slavic culture.

What do you think?

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