Jewelers routes

18 December 2015

Ethno jewelry journey at the World Jewellery Museum

This Asian museum entirely dedicated to jewelry presents a beautiful ethnic collection.

What a surprise to find this museum entirely given to jewelry in Seoul, since Korea has no real tradition in this field. For such a long time now, the well-covering traditional dress – the hanbok – has left no room for necklaces and bracelets, in much the same way as Japan’s kimono has done. Madame Lee Kang-won, a female diplomat, opened the museum in 2004 to exhibit 3,000 pieces acquired over 30 years during her travels. The pieces come from sixty countries including India, China, Morocco, Mongolia and Ethiopia. Many date from the 19th and 20th centuries and each was chosen and purchased by Ms Lee Kang-won herself.

In this museum, gold and precious stones give way to horn, ivory, leather, amber or iron. Indeed, the value of this collection of ethnic jewelry is not found in the materials but rather in the way they decorate the body, the rites and traditions they carry and the virtues they possess. The seven amber-bead Moroccan necklaces that strike the eye upon entering were worn on medical prescription to maintain women’s body heat. The Indonesian collar made up of crocodile teeth – called tora tora – was supposed to make the hunter invincible. All terribly moving.

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