Seven Thousand Years of Skill-Building? A Brief History of Tuareg Silver Jewelry

Mon, Sep 25, 2017 @ 10:53 AM

The Tuareg silversmiths of Azel are a group of African artisans who truly excel at the creation of exquisite fine silver jewelry and leather artifacts. Tuareg history goes back 7 thousand years!

TZILA Cross Necklace

There are 21 styles attributed to this Cross Of Agadez,
aka The Southern Cross

This particular design is TZILA, which means the sublime.


As a result, Tuareg fine silver jewelry is full of symbols that express the history and lore of this fascinating group of people. Their techniques and designs truly reflect this long period of skill development and mastery of the art of crafting beautiful and dramatic silver jewelry.


The Azel Collection - Fine Silver Jewelry

The design of each piece conveys a "message" - either symbolic, mystical, astronomical or something that illustrates the practicalities of life. 

The Amazigh alphabet (Tifanagh) is often incorporated into
the symbolic designs of Tuareg fine silver jewelry.

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This gorgeous cuff-style bracelet, TASFIN, is named for a Berber King.
A good example of the use of the Amazigh alphabet.

For centuries, the Tuareg people have maintained their distinct identity quite separately from the cultures that surround them to the north and south. In fact, the Tuareg don't even call themselves "Tuareg". The word probably is of Arabic origin - meaning "those who abandoned god" and was likely given to them as a result of their initial refusal to adopt the Islamic life and religion, as they adhered to the Berber mythology. During the medieval period, the Tuareg adopted Islam after its arrival in the 7th century and helped spread Islam and its legacy in North Africa.

In fact, the Tuareg call themselves a variation of the root word "iwagh" - meaning "he is free". The variations are dependent upon where the Tuareg group is located - generally Algeria, Mali or Niger.

Tuareg society is quite matriarchal. Women own the family tent and contents and aristocratic status or hierarchy is passed through matrilinear descent. Women participate in all community decisions. 

The role of an artisan is highly respected by the Tuareg. We say thank goodness, as this attitude has fostered a climate in which this beautiful jewelry germinated and grew over eons of time.

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Penny Baldwin-French

Written by Penny Baldwin-French

Penny is the Chief Marketing Officer for Zawadee - Bring Africa Home. She enjoys bringing unique and beautiful products to market, is an avid kayaker and enjoys all things marketing.

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