The smiths of culture

3 min read · May 23, 2022

The smiths of culture

Every culture has its own jewels and ornaments that embody their traditions and thoughts. In Europe, especially France and England, it is more common to cut precious gems and fit them on gold or silver crafted items, while plain silver and gold ornaments were more popular for the Mongols, which resulted in a growth of gold and silver smiths.

As for precious stones, Mongols traditionally used coral, pearl, turquoise and azure in line with their faith. While the celebrated artisan and polymath Zanabazar created one-of-a-kind depictions of Buddhist deities that raised the bar for such work, Mongol silver and gold smiths had also created their own specifications and schools in their trade, passing it down from generation to generation.

Must-have belongings of Mongol men include a dagger, bowl, tobacco pipe and khuurug (snuff bottle), all of which involved particular skills of a smith to make. For women, fair clips, wraps and other accessories are exquisitely made by precious metalworkers, oftentimes inlaid with turquoise or coral gemstones.

Mongols have always highly respected their horses and, understandably, horse equipment and accessories are also made by vastly skilled craftsmen, and the trade has developed to become a sub-classification of crafted items. There are more than a few disciplines of metalsmithing in Mongolia.

To name some, there is Batnorov, Dariganga, Sevrei Noyon, Dalaichoinkhor, Borjigon, Buriat, Khuree and Duuregch Wan, all very different from each other in style and design. The first four schools of metalsmithing are considered the most popular and prestigious. The reason for their superiority over others is their specific and distinct methods of crafting.

Design History and Characteristics

Dalaichoinkhor Wan Design: This design certainly derives from Prince Tsedensonom of Dalaichoinkhor. A descendant of Mongol Khans, he was a well-educated individual who loved jewelry. The territory their family owned was also one of the largest and richest within Khalkha provinces. He began to call for silver and gold smiths in the area to craft ornaments and items of fascinating designs, an act that would echo the name of his khoshuu or territory among Mongols. Dalaichoinkhor doesn’t have a very noticeable design difference from the rest – but it distinguishes itself from them by its quality and exhibiting a combined design specifications of other designs.

Sevrei Noyon Design: Silver and gold metalworkers were always famed in the area of Sevrei and Noyon sums of Southgobi Province, leading to a rise and popularity of metalworking throughout Mongolia. Today’s popularity of this design is attributed to smiths from Pagma Munkh and Chuluuni Baljir.

Dariganga and Sevrei Noyon cups are especially popular in Mongolia today. While Dariganga cups are known for their embossed patterns and minimal silver content, Sevrei Noyon designs have more silver and made with casting. Large cups have 32 – 35 lans of silver (One lan equals 37.301 grams), medium cups have 17 – 20 and small cups contain 8 – 10 lans of silver.

Batnorov design: Tojil is one of the more famous smiths in Mongolia. His birth name is Ishjamts, but gained fame as Tojil smith and is the one who established Batnorov designs. Mongol smiths make their own tools with which to smith – there is even an old idiom, “You are no smith if you cannot make your own tools.”

The reason batnorov design is popular is because it is made by metal casting. Smith Tojil discovered metal casting soon after he became a disciple to another famed smith named Tunsag, and realized to become an expert smith; he must make his own distinct mold. His searched for clay with particular properties with which he made his own mold, a tradition upheld to this day by modern smiths. Horse saddle plates and rims, pipe cleaners, bit and shanks of batnorov silver casting henceforth spread all over Mongolia.

Dariganga design: This make seems to have originated mainly from women’s jewelry and ornaments, distinguished as gold and silver crafts with gemstone fittings. Today’s ornament hair clippings for women definitely have origins from dariganga pattern of metalcrafts. This type of metalworking is recognized for combining a number of metalworking methods for silver and gold crafts.