Girls from Nagaland, India. Photo courtesy Raj Kumar
Since first coins were minted they have been used by people as elements in jewelry. Their round form and size range made them very suited to use in ornaments. For those who could afford it, gold coins were used, and others had to be satisfied with silver. Obviously, coins are a symbol of wealth and showing them off in the form of jewelry contribute to the wearer's prestige. Besides in many countries coins were and are believed to possess mystic, amuletic powers. It is partly because of attitudes towards the metals of which they are made, and in some cases because of the images stamped upon them.
Cretan girl in traditional costume. Photo courtesy Eleanna Kounoupa
For example, in India the old coins minted by the southern kingdom of Vijayanagar on which figures of Hindu deities are depicted or the Mogul emperor Akbar's rupees carrying words from the Quran, were seen as lucky and worn as amulets . In Venice the gold ducats issued in the name of the mid-18th century Doge Loredano bore an image of Christ and were issued to be worn as pendants by pilgrims. In Europe Holy Sacrament communion coins were thought to acquire healing powers over various deceases, especially rheumatism and epilepsy. Such otherwise normal coins, which had been offered at communion, were purchased from the priest and worn by the sick person in the form of a necklace, a pendant or a ring.
Armenian girl in traditional attire. Photo courtesy Ilya Vartanian
In America there was belief that a silver dime worn at the throat woul supposedly turn black if someone tries to poison your food or drink and even nowadays "Indian Head" cents are worn as amulets there to ward off evil or negative spirits. In Nepal to touch a woman's body with an old coin during delivery is believed to make the delivery easy; the same coin later functions as an amulet for the child. However, the most common belief in different cultures is that wearing coins attracts money.
Sherpa woman in a cap decorated with coins, Nepal
Coins are present in adornments of traditional costumes and in tribal jewelry of so many countries. Look at this Serbian woman's costume on display at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. Her "apron" piece is loaded with coins, a real sign of great wealth.
Chuvash traditional costume may include several coin-decorated elements: a helmet-shaped headdress called tukhya; a sling called tevet worn over left shoulder and a heavy breastplate surpan sakki made of leather, earrings and a necklace.
Photos by G.Samsonov
In Western Ukraine girls used to wear an ornament called ducach (from ducat). It consisted of a large metallic bow decorated with gems or pearls and a pendant-coin.
Dancing girls often used coin jewelry since the jingling of the coins goes very well with the movements. This Quled Nail girl is wearing bands with coins which are tied around the neck and the head.
Turkmen women used to decorate their plaits with an ornament called sholpa. It was made from local tengi coins.
And this late Antique pendant from the British Museum incorporates a double-solidus (gold coin) of the Roman emperor Constantine I whose image appears on the front. These coins were issued in AD 321 and 324 to commemorate the second and third consulships of Constantine's sons. Such elaborate coin-set jewelry is believed to have been presented as imperial gifts to members of the emperor s family or to important political supporters.
The Indian Kasu Malai (gold coin necklace) has an interesting story behind its name. In the time of the Cholas one of the raja's toddy drawer discovered gold and secretly amassed great wealth. Upon being caught he was condemned to death, but before his execution the raja granted his request that his name, Sanar Kasu, would be perpetuated by the issue of a pure gold coin.
Iban girls' traditional adornments are so much impressive. Coins decorate the silver belt, skirt and anklets.
photo from here
And these are Macedonian festive attires on display at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
photo courtesy Karen Elwell
Tribal women from Orissa, India, use coins in many of their jewelry pieces.
photos courtesy Raj Kumar
Many modern designers create unique adornments using coins
Coins are such small and simple things but so many varieties of jewelry can be made using them.
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