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Blog / Tuaregs

The Tuareg: Nomadic Silver Craftsmen of Africa

Tuareg culture is rich in history and tradition. A semi-nomadic Berber people, the Tuareg inhabit a large area of the middle and western Sahara and travel throughout Algeria, Mali, Niger and as far as Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria. In fact, Tuareg people don't perceive the Sahara as one desert, but as many. They call the Sahara "Tinariwen" which means "the deserts". The Tuareg language is spoken by more than 1 million people. Extraordinary silversmiths, the Tuareg produce some of the most unique silver jewelry  in the world. 

Shopping for a unique piece of jewelry that will turn heads? Well, look no further. Zawadee carries a large collection of beautiful and elegant silver jewelry handcrafted by the Tuareg people. Check out our unique collection of eclectic silver necklaces, pendants, and earrings. 

The Fascinating Life of the Tuareg People

The Tuareg are a fiercely independent people who maintain their Berber ways. They produce stunning jewelry in bold and simplistic designs - very geometric and symmetrical. They believe that silver is the metal of the prophet and, in fact, Tuareg women often have a superstitious fear of gold and will not wear it.

Silver is a part of every family history, as it holds both symbolic and real value and is used for barter and trading.  Unique jewelry made from silver and often combined with other items collected along their travels, such as gemstones, rare woods and other fascinating materials.

The Tuareg People in Pop Culture

  • In 2003, Volkswagen named their new SUV line the Touareg (a common alternative spelling).

  • The 2005 film Sahara features a group of Tuareg

  • Spanish author Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa's novel Tuareg (1980) sold more than 5,000,000 copies and was adapted into a 1984 movie starring Mark Harmon entitled Tuareg – The Desert Warrior

Much of the Tuareg peoples’ cultural and artistic identity and resourceful and inventive spirit is expressed in their jewelry, as well as, leather and metal saddle decorations and swords. However, they have become known globally for their skill in jewelry making, primarily for their silver jewelry designs.

Necklaces worn by a Tuareg woman often depict her history and the story of her people, as well as her city of origin.

Each piece of Tuareg silver jewelry has special meaning. Each piece contains a message and historical symbols, which are passed down from generation to generation. Showcasing the intricate use of design in their silversmithing techniques, our Azel Collection will be sure to have that "must-have piece" to set off your fall and winter wardrobe. A wonderful choice as a holiday gift, or - what the dickins - to please yourself!


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

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

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 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.

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.  

Azel Collection Silver Jewelry
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