Traditional Latvian Jewelry

Traditional Latvian artwork is centered mostly on its ancient mythology, as well as the resources of the region.  Latvia’s most known type of artwork is jewelry.  Many different types of jewelry are made in Latvia, but all have a common theme.  Latvian artwork uses groupings of lines as well as branching to create intricate images.  Common depictions include geometrical decorations representing the sun, moon and fertility symbols.  Shapes involved in drawing these images are circles, slanted and vertical crosses, triangles, and wavy lines.  Another element used is repetition.  The images in Latvian jewelry are symmetrical and repeat common themes throughout.

A common image in Latvian artifacts is the auseklis (“dawn seed”).  This symbol represents the morning star deity, Auseklis.  The symbol is comprised of several lines creating an eight-sided star.  This symbol was originally used as protection against evil spirits.  The jewelry shown below is an example of an auseklis.  Another common design in Latvian artwork is shown in the symbols on the smaller parts of the earring.  These symbols are, again, comprised of several lines.  These symbols have smaller meanings, representing things such as woods and other natural objects.

Most men in Latvia wear a ring called nameja gredzens.  This ring can be made of silver or gold and contains three main bands woven about each other.  These rings have a flow to them because of the weaved bands.  Basic nameja consist of just the three bands, but more intricate ones have many embellishments such as smaller twists of silver woven in with the larger bands.  The nameja has a mythology behind it, as to why most men have one:

  The leader of the Zemgalle region was named Namejs.  He was one of the last warriors against the invasion of the German crusaders into the territory of Latvia at the beginning of the 13th century.  Outnumbered by enemy troops, he was forced to escape to Lithuania.  Before leaving, Namejs gave his ring to his young son so that he could recognize him upon return, since his child would be much older.  The enemy found out and began searching for Namejs’ family in order to force him to surrender.  In order to save the leader of the nation and his family, many copies of this ring were made for the citizens to wear.

A final type of jewelry that is common in Latvia is amber jewelry.  Because amber is such a common resource in the Baltic region, a lot of jewelry is carved from it.  Necklaces, earrings, and rings are all made from amber.  The ring below is a bland, undecorated piece of amber, but many jewelers create intricate carved designs on the amber.  The designs include the auseklis and other deities like Saule and Meness (sun and moon) as well as the other small, linear designs.

The most recognizable form of Latvian artwork is the jewelry produced by the region.  These compositions include the line, repetition, flow, and branching elements of design.  The artwork of this region is also dependant on its resources, which is why amber is a common substance for jewelry.


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