As a nomadic tribe the sami people never had the opportunity to produce jewellery by theirselves. An exception was jewellery made of pewter. This metal is so easy to work with that the Sami could draw wire which they used to embroider skin and cloth.
The sami people always got their silver jewellery by trade from Southern Scandinavia or Russia.
Silver treasures were often hidden under stones or in small caves. Still today the Sami tell many stories about ancient family fortunes which have never been found.
What we call "Sami silver" today, is a modern expression for silver jewellery which was produced for the first time at Juhls Silverworkshop in Kautokeino in the middle of the 1960's.
In the beginning, modern sami silver jewellery only consisted of rings, maljer, silverballs and other accessories for the sami national dress, called kofte in Norwegian. Later new models were included, based on excavations of ancient bronze- and silver jewellery from the Middle Ages . Most of those jewellery was found beside sami sacrificial stones in Sweden.
In addition to the sami silver, Tana Gull og S lvsmie AS produces jewellery with motives from ancient sami shaman drums, rock carvings and copies of museum collections.
During the Middle Ages filigree silverballs were used all over Scandinavia as jewellery for the national costume.
In the 1700'th century the filigree silverballs were made smaller. Silverballs combined of a smooth and a filigree halv appeared.
At the same time completely smooth silverballs , with small rings soldered to it, were produced. Bigger loose rings were mounted into the small rings around the silverball . The loose rings were probably only decoration and had no practical or symbolic meaning.
The Sami used the silverballs on the collar of their national costume. Later, when this custom disappeared, they hung the silverballs over the very special sami cradles, komse, thereby they were named komsekule.
The Sami hoped that the komsekule would protect the babies against the goblins.
They believed that the goblins wanted to exchange their own children for the sami children.
The Sami believed that the goblins couldn't even come near the cradles if there were some protective silverballs hung over it.
Today these silverballs are popular jewellery, which may still have some symbolic meaning, because they are often used in the Sami areas a gift when the children are baptised
SHAMAN DRUM FIGURES
A great number of our jewellery represent motives from ancient sami shaman drums , called runebomme in Norwegian. A runebomme was made of tree and reindeer skin. The shaman, noaidi, painted magic drawings on the drumhead. When using the runebomme the noaidi placed a small piece of reindeerhorn in the middle of the drumhead. It began to move around on the drumhead when the drum was beaten. From the combination of the different drawings, which the piece of horn touched on its way around the drumhead, the noaidi could tell the future and predict hunting luck.
The drawings on the drumhead were painted in a certain system, a cosmos containing goddesses, the sun, a hunter on ski and the noaidi with his drum. On nearly every drum one can find drawings of animals like bears, mooses, beavers, fishes, birds and many different reindeers.
The golden-eyed duck was often represented on runebommes. The sami people made big nesting boxes for the ducks. In springtime they took eggs from these nesting boxes. The eggs were important in a season when there was otherwise very little fresh food to get.
A nice detail of the broach of our golden-eyed duck are the legs which are movable.
The sami women attached a special jewellery to their broad leather belts. This belt-jewellery was either made of metal or of reindeerhorn.
Under the belt-jewellery the women hung their knives, needle-cases, spoon-bags , scissor-covers and purses. The keys for the storehouses and treasury boxes were additionally attached to the belt-jewellery when they moved with their reindeer herds.
Some models of our belt-jewellery are from the Middle Ages. They were found beside ancient sami sacrificial stones in Sweden. The scientists assume that the motives are sunwheels or sun-symbols . Thereby the belt-jewellery got their name: sunwheel.
The name sunwheel is modern and was used for the first time at Juhls Silverworkshop in the middle of the 1960's
Most of our sunwheels originate from belt-jewellery made of reindeer-horn. To make jewellery which is fit for the modern women we had to decrease the size of all the original sunwheels.
The originals of our grouse were found beside to an ancient sami sacrificial stone in Sweden. They were made of pewter or bronze. Analysis of the bronze showed that some of the grouse were produced near lake Ladoga in Russia.
The design showes that they were specially made for sami customers. In the Middle Ages there existed an important trade with fur in the sami areas. The grouse were probably highly priced trade goods.
The ring attached to the back of the grouse indicates that they have been used as pendants.
Some of the original grouse were made of pewter. This metal is so easy to work with that the sami people probably could have casted the grouse themselves, using the bronze grouse as models.
If it is really the sami people who produced the pewter grouses, this would be the first proof of sami metalwork.
The grouses have such an elegant form, that they could have been designed by a modern designer.
A malje was an ancient pilgrimsign from the Middle Ages. During the time when Norway still was Catholic, people made pilgrimages to monasteries all over Europe.
At the monasteries they got a special pilgrim sign as proof of their successful journey. Some pilgrim signs were formed as a Gothic "M" with a crown on the top, a symbol of Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven. There are other Gothic letters like our "A"and other signs of which nobody knows the meaning any more.
The loose ring on the front of the malje was probably decoration and had no practical or symbolic meaning. In Southern Norway the ring on the backside was used for attaching silver chains to the National costume. Thereby this kind of jewellery was named malje.
The Sami attached the maljes on the collar of the sami national costume, or they mounted them on their broad skin belts. Nearly all the maljer were gilded at those times.
The superstition of the sami people surely connected some magical powers to the malje, long after the original religious intention had been forgotten.
Today a malje is a decorative jewellery without religious meaning.
JEWELLERY FOR THE SAMI NATIONAL COSTUME .
The sami national costume is called kofte in Norwegian. The silver jewellery ,which the sami people used in former times, koftesilver, was originally jewellery from Southern Scandinavian national costumes.
Some koftesilver were specially made for the sami customers. In these cases the silversmith used silversheets and - wire which was stronger as usual. The sami national costume silver jewellery was in daily use and should not show signs of wear.
In the last few years the koftesilver has changed dramatically.
The silverworkshops in Finnmark have either developed their own designs, or they have started to produce the ancient models that had been out of use for centuries. The koftesilver became larger and larger in size during the increase of wealth in Finnmark from the last of the 1960's
In the village of Kautokeino the women sometimes use broaches with a diameter of 20 cm or more. Coloured glass beads and reindeer horn are examples of untraditional materials used together with silver today .
Silver rings with several small loose rings on the top originally belonged to the national costumes from Southern Scandinavian. Finger rings were often gilded by a thick layer of gold.
The sami women used them as wedding rings instead of common smooth golden rings. Golden rings were only worn as a sign of wealth. Today the sami people use golden rings as wedding rings like everybody else.
The loose rings on top of the fingerrings were probably decoration and had no practical or symbolic meaning.
It is not true that the amount of small loose rings showed how many children a woman had given birth to. This explanation would have been very charming and logical, but has nothing to do with reality.
The spoons were specially made for sami customers. The sami people sent spoons, made of reindeerhorn, to silverworkshops in Southern Norway and Northern Sweden. These reindeerhorn spoons were used as models to produce silver spoons which the sami people used to eat with. All the sami people had a spoon in a small bag attached to their belt.
The design of the ancient spoons of reindeerhorn show, that the Sami often used metal spoons as a model for their own spoons of reindeerhorn. Many of the sami silver spoons are thereby copies of reindeerhorn spoons, which again are copies of silver spoons. This way the old sami spoons got the most special design of all sami silver.
Many spoons have loose rings mounted on the handle. These rings were probably decoration and had no practical or symbolic meaning.
Two of our silver spoons got their design directly from ancient spoons made of reindeerhorn, found in this area.