Late 19th or early 20th century
Central Asia or Iran
Silver, fire-gilded and chased, carnelians
4 × 5 in. (10.6 × 12.7 cm)
2.892 oz. (82 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris, possibly from The Chair Store in San Francisco on March 21, 1979.
A tumar is a triangular amulet holder, commonly worn on the chest, waist, or shoulders. This example is made of silver metal, and has twelve rust orange translucent stones, likely carnelians, in an almond shape. The stones have a glowing, orange effect. Its triangular top features metal openwork with rams’ head terminals. The tumar has an open chamber divided into six sections, designed to hold a paper scroll.There are several teardrop, feather, and diamond shaped charms hanging from the bottom that create noise when moved. Geometric engraved shapes cover the surface. The back of the object is smooth and relatively unadorned; it features three loops to hang the object, possibly added after the object was originally produced.
When examining this object, both herbal and arabesque motifs make themselves prevalent on its metallic surface. A light geometric Arabesque pattern is etched all over the pendant, which could lead one to believe that the other objects worn alongside this one had similar patterns, as to create a cohesive look on the wearer. As stated by Noruzi and Kermani, herbal and Arabesque motifs function both as a representation of humanity’s origin, and as an indicator of Islamic influence. The authors of this work also note that tumars of this shape are symbols of immortality and nature. By tying together the motif rooted in the origins of humanity and immortality, one can conclude that the tumars purpose is to be worn, and to ward off sickness, bad spirits, and ensure healthy births.
There are seven rams head terminals on the triangular top of the piece, which were a symbol of nomadic living, fertility, and power. In addition, the number seven holds religious significance in many religions including islam where there are seven heavens and during the pilgrimage to Mecca, muslims walk around the Kaaba seven times.
Layla S. Diba, Turkmen Jewelry: Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn Wolf Collection (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011).
Hossein Noruzi, and Imanzakariai Kermani, “Concepts of Motifs in Culture: a Review of the Jewelry of Turkmen Women,” Chitrolekha International Magazine on Art and Design 5, no. 2 (2015): 13–26.
Ella Olsen Richman ’26, Lucy Adams ’23, Soren Shapiro ’24, Alhasan Barrie ’23