I first heard about Telkari, in the Southeast city of Mardin. The area is famous for this type of jewellery and it is a popular trend for locals and tourists.
Designs and styles are different from jewellery sold on the Western coast of Turkey, which is normally sourced in from the big city of Istanbul.
What is Telkari?
Telkari is an art and an age-old tradition. Extremely thin wires of gold or silver are fused together to form jewellery or similar items. Precious stones or small silver balls are also added.
The most popular item is a bracelet and a ring combined so the outer part of the hand is covered in a mesh of braiding.
The nearest Western equivalent to Telkari is Filigree and it is not purely a Turkish tradition but rather Middle Eastern and Asian. Nonetheless, I was still interested and eager to see a Telkari master at work.
Yet none of the jewellery shops in Mardin could help me. Every time I asked, the Telkari master was not available. I put it down to “one of those things” but left Mardin disappointed.
Telkari in Beypazari
A few weeks later, I arrived in Beypazari and walked past a jewellery shop. Inside a man was hunched over his desk with a blowtorch in one hand and a pair of tweezers in the other.
I asked what he was doing and Telkari was the answer. Unbeknown to me, along with Mardin, Beypazari is a major production hub for Telkari in Turkey.
In a Cultural Souvenir Design contest organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Beypazari won first place because of its Telkari designs.
I could not contain my delight as he ignited the flame and concentrated on fusing wires together. He was very hospitable and seemed not to mind my camera in his face.
Through conversation, it transpired that he travelled to Mardin monthly. He sells a lot of items to jewellery shops there. That could explain why I did not find a Telkari master in Mardin.
Making Telkari is not for people with clumsy hands or bad vision. Lots of patience and good eyesight are needed. The Telkari master learned the trade from his father who learnt it from his grandfather and so on.
Every male generation of his family has carried on the tradition, yet the Telkari master’s son will not.
He does not want to.
Says there is better money to be made elsewhere and his father agrees.
He has even taken another job because purely making Telkari no longer provides a sufficient income.
I like to think this art form will not disappear but it was suggested to me that perhaps the jewellery shops of Mardin are sourcing in from Beypazari because the art is dying.
If the tradition of Telkari is in danger, then I say put the prices up and make it a collector’s item instead.
Readers Question : Do you own any pieces of traditional Telkari?