Metallic ornaments traditionally had high semiotic status in the cultures of these peoples. They were carefully preserved being handed down from generation to generation. The history of certain pieces of jewelry from the RME collection counts 300–400 years. Jewelry indicated social position, sex and age of their owner. In certain cases they could tell about individual’s religious views, and his or hers vassal dependence. In the 19th century people knew the symbolic language of jewelry designs. «Hand in hand» - sacta, presented by groom to his bride, “cross and eagle” in ornamentation of brooch meant that their owner is married Seto woman, Orthodox Christian and subject of the Russian tsar.
Due to their material, form and decoration, many pieces of jewelry were related to ancient rituals of reproductive, amorous, and curing magic. They were essential attributes of calendar festivals and life circle rites. Among the Setos jewelry accompanied woman during all her life and even “died’’ with her. For example, the umbilical cord of new-born girl was cut off on the big silver brooch. In case of premature death of a girl of marriageable age, her jewels were hung on her tomb cross in the day of her funerals during death feast. In course of following forty days of her ordeals jewelry “helped” their owner and “protected” her in the sepulchral world, nobody could touch them. After end of mourning they bade farewell to the deceased girl and “returned to life”.
Being the keepers and absorbers of ancient feminine magic at the same time jewelry like no other element of folk culture can serve as example of organic combination of ethnic (ethno-local) tradition with modern trends in decorative and applied arts. It’s not infrequently when the design of one object shows the patterns related to various European art styles such as Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Such flexibility and easy reception of innovations are due partly to the fact that many jewels were made by Germans and Swedes, professional guild jewelers from Dorpat (Tartu), Reval (Tallinn) and Riga, who worked on commission from aboriginal populations: Estonians, Latvians, Setos. New forms and types of jewelry, original variants of art design appeared as outcome of this specific cooperation. The RME collection of neck and breast jewels gives opportunity to compare artistic tradition of the northern, western and the southern parts of Estonia and also to trace particularities of individual styles of leading Dorpat jewelers: Leofstrem, the Orenius dynasty, the Blomerius dynasty, the Hermann dynasty, etc. in 19-early 20 centuries.
Under the influence of city centers two original ethno-local “schools” of rural goldsmiths- the kurzemskya and the vidzemskya emerged in Latvia. In contrast to Estonian silver brooches decorated with exquisite engraving, the sactas of Latvian craftsmen show affection to relief and polychromic coloring. The Kurzeme breast buckles, belts of colored metal with inlays of polished red and green glass distinguish by their sophisticated baroque splendor. In maiden costume of Kuldiga they are an ideological and artistic center uniting all the rest details of clothes and adornments. The maiden of Kuldiga is rich, noble and majestic. Golden band lays on the beauty’s hear, “golden” belt fastens her waist, the purple of heavy skirt contrasts the lavish dark-blue cloak melene with lots of rattling amulets-pendants, which are fixed on her breast by solid “golden” sacta with glittering “rubies” and “emeralds”.
In the late 20th century the professional jewelers and folk craftsmen of Baltic region continued the traditions of their counterparts from the 19th century. The special trend in the creative work of modern designers is the historical reconstruction, reproducing of archeological artifacts of the 7th -16th centuries in Lithonia, Latvia, Estonia.
Space required – approximately 100-150 square meters
Numbers of objects – about 60