Gem And Craft: The History

In Pursuit of The Artisans of Grand Bazaar

Foreword (2017) by Ahu HasRezan Has Museum

Societies show the marks and signs of the deep-rooted traditions, which has given the final shape to its people.
The relationship among the craft-master-apprentice trio, which mirrors the sociological base and the unique language of our society in the clearest way possible, is one the most vital elements of our culture that we are responsible for its conservation. As stated by all of the masters taking place in this exhibition, “Grand Bazaar is a University” in which we get to learn, grow, and connect the past to the future.
From the first day of our establishment, as Rezan Has Museum, we accepted as our main mission to emphasize the importance of our cultural values. It is impossible for us to be indifferent to the Grand Bazaar and its 550 year old history of the masterful hands of the artisans, especially in this technological age of mass production that we live in.
It is an honor to have these master artisans at our museum, with their stories and precious works, through which can we translate our main concern and mission clearly. It is our pleasure to pay homage with this exhibition to Istanbul’s dearest Grand Bazaar, and everything that it represents and stands for.

Introduction (2017) by Ayse Coşkun&Yonca Kösebay ErkanRezan Has Museum

Beyond its emphasis on the physical space of jewelry making, particularly at a time in which Grand Bazaar is undergoing restoration, 'Gem and Craft: In Pursuit of the Masters of Grand Bazaar' is the product of the efforts to bring into view masters as the transmitters of a living tradition of unique and creative distinction and the desire to uphold this tradition. The exhibition was designed to offer a modern perspective on jewelry design by unveiling the mystery of the workshops of the last generation of masters that continue to produce using traditional techniques and contribute infinitely to the character and essence of Grand Bazaar jewelry-making. The conceptual backbone of the exhibition, on the other hand, is based on the results of the academic research project “The Relationship between Craftsmanship, Design, and Innovation in the Context of Intangible Cultural Heritage as the Source of Creative Economy:The ‘Living Human Treasures’ of Grand Bazaar” conducted between 2013 and 2015 and supported by TÜBİTAK.

In the Footsteps (2017) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

Recognized as ‘İstanbul İşi’ (Istanbul-Made or Istanbul- Style), Istanbul’s unique tradition of jewelry making is identified with the Grand Bazaar. Since the years of the Empire, the Grand Bazaar has been the heart of jewelry making outside of the palace. Masters from different part of the Empire set up shop at the hans in and around the Grand Bazaar as the main actors of this tradition flourishing outside the court. It is known that as the abode of master(y), the Grand Bazaar exported masters to France, England, and the United States and that some of the famous jewelry makers that left their imprint on the history of jewelry design were Greek and Armenian masters of Istanbul origin.

The industrialization of the jewelry executed at the Grand Bazaar and the surrounding hans that have upheld the tradition of jewelry making for over 500 years took place in the 1990s.

Preottoman Production (Early Byzantine Period) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

Jewelers constituted a significant and influential group of craftsmen in Istanbul during the Byzantine Era and the guild organizations including jewelers existed since the founding of the Roman Empire. It is observed that the guild system in Rome during the Byzantine Era evolved from being transmitted from father to son to a skill- and artistry-based recognition and that this transformed identity of the jewelry makers in the 5th and 6th centuries became highly influential in economic, commercial, and political areas.

Head of the Female Servant (2011) by DalvimartRezan Has Museum

During the Ottoman Era, jewelry production continued to grow in two directions: at the palace and outside of the palace. Many craftsmen and artisans were trained from apprenticeship to the rank of master depending on the length and process of their education. In the Ottoman Empire, jewelry makers were known by the name esnaf-ı zergerân and operated as members of two different professional groups working either at the court or organized in and around the Grand Bazaar. While the early years of court jewelry production reveals the Timurid and Safavid influences in particular, a certain style that could be defined as ‘Ottoman jewelry’ had been created by the end of the 16th century.

Star-Shaped Brooch Diaomond (End of The 19th Century)Rezan Has Museum

Star-shaped brooch diamond. Private Collection

Rose Shaped Ring (unknown) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

In the 17th century, pearls were commonly used among Ottoman women; pearl was the choice of stone in earrings and pieces of jewelry attached to veils (yashmac). From late 18th to early 20th century, chokers with medallions at the center, chains extending as low as the knees, as well as pins and brooches attached to veils were commonly used. The Grand Bazaar or Istanbul school represents a kind of eclectic style that utilizes almost all techniques, forms, and materials. Today, the Divanhane nail ring, rose ring, and shuttle ring, which all employ the alaturka (Turkish-style) setting technique of raw rose-cut diamond, are all current examples of the old Ottoman aesthetic and taste.

Rose Shaped Earrings (unknown) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

Evliya Çelebi recounts that jewelry makers were comprised of five thousand employees operating in three thousand shops. He divides the craftsmen into 29 different branches. Members of a guild were comprised of the apprentice, the assistant, and the master, which were identified by and associated with levels of will, training and diploma of maturity, respectively. Particularly in guilds concentrated on a specific artisanship and its subcategories, the master-assistant-apprentice hierarchy was of utmost importance not only for identifying the standard of production and quality, but also in terms of creating the character of the artisan and his craft.

Shuttle Eye Shaped Ring (2017)Rezan Has Museum

Mekik shaped ring. Diamond, Ruby. Private Collection

Divanhane Çivisi Ring (End of the 19th Century)Rezan Has Museum

Divanhane Çivisi style ring, diamond. Private Collection.

Harem Style RingRezan Has Museum

Harem style ring, diamond, sapphire. Private collection.

Annuarie (1909) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

One of the most important sources pertaining to the history of jewelry production in Istanbul is the Annuaire Oriental (Annual Trade Reports in the Orient). Annuaire Oriental (or Şark Ticaret Yıllıkları as it is known in Turkish) was published in Turkish and French between 1868 and 1945 by Raphael Cesar Cervati and N.C. Sargologo. In the Annuaire it is possible to access the list of individuals working in workshops or shops in places such as Çuhacı Han, Kalcılar Han, Varakçı Han, and Zincirli Han in Grand Bazaar.

Bazaar (2014) by Turgut TarhanRezan Has Museum

The Grand Bazaar constitutes the main axis of the organization and production of the jewelry makers in Istanbul. Shaped around İç Bedesten (Cevahir Bedesteni) and Sandal Bedesteni in terms of its spatial design, the Grand Bazaar also points to the organizational structure of jewelry makers clustered in this bazaar. Still, it appears that the jewelry makers at the bazaar and the palace were not disconnected from one another. It is known that the bazaar sold products to the palace through intermediaries. Although the volume of production at the Grand Bazaar throughout its history remains unknown, archive documents suggest that in the second half of the 19th century, professions working with fire at the Grand Bazaar, such as goldsmiths and tinsmiths be moved to masonry hans outside the Grand Bazaar.

Jewelry Production (2017) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

While the hans around the Grand Bazaar are an extension of the building typology observed in Anatolian-Turkish Seljukid architecture, they are not used for accommodation, but focus on housing urban trade instead. Making room for sales and storage, they are often comprised of two-storey masonry buildings built around a courtyard. Kalcılar Han, Varakçı Han, Zincirli Han, and Çuhacı Han hold a significant place in jewelry production heritage. Today, production is carried out entirely in a dynamic network spread across the surrounding hans. Due to its nature, production of jewelry demands collaboration between various areas of specialization.

Dissolution (2017) by Selim Süme&Esra ÖzdoğanRezan Has Museum

The classic jewelry production techniques employed today have been in use since the birth of this craft. Regardless of its production method, the product undergoes a series of processes until it reaches the consumer. Following the use of machines in jewelry production, jewelry was no longer a work produced in the workshop in every aspect as it was the case in traditional production, but reached a stage in which it comprised of semi-goods brought together as a whole. This instigated different areas of specialization in jewelry production and culminated in changes in production scales.

Today, all the traditional jewelry production techniques are still used in the Grand Bazaar and across the surrounding hans.

Credits: Story

Curators: Ayşe Coşkun & Yonca Kösebay Erkan
Coordinator: Zeynep Çulha
Project Asistants: Nazlı Yayla, Ecem Aslan
Exhibition Design: PATTU
Video Design and Production: Serkan Bayraktaroğlu
Illustration: Çınar Narter
İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri İstanbul Araştırmaları Enstitüsü Pera Müzesi
Atatürk Kitaplığı
Topkapı Sarayı
SALT Araştırma
F. Gülrû Tanman
Rukiye Kuneralp
Pınar Çulha Moler
Arman Suciyan
Rıdvan Gürün
Fuat Kırgız
Taşkın Temeller
Aret Çakıcı
Hraç Aslanyan
Çınar Narter
Gülbahar Baran Çelik BurcuYağız
Tahsin Demir
Azize Gelir Çelebi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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