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The function, shapes and decoration of silver artefacts

At the various Bulgarian centres, silverware products were manufactured by the same techniques. The identity, or the greater or lesser similarity in shapes, decoration and kinds of product, throughout Bulgaria and some of the neighbouring countries, bespeaks the same or similar methods of working, a community of influence between the silver-working centres, and the handing down of ideas from one generation to the next.

The female jewellery of the 18th century is not very different from that made and worn in the 13th-14th century. The silversmiths followed the traditional shapes created over the centuries. Sometimes the original products of certain craftsmen-silversmiths were adopted and channelled into production for a long time, on account of the demand for it.

For domestic use, silver jugs, cups, saucers, spoons, ashtrays (tasakia) for water, jewellery boxes, cigarette boxes, purses tobacco boxes, pipes, handbags, gunpowder boxes, water-flasks, candlesticks and other items were manufactured. They were forged, cast, networked or with filigree, and made of fine silver, of cheap silver alloy, with or without gilding, and very rarely of gold. Through her jewellery, the Bulgarian woman demonstrated her wealth and social position. At the same time, some pieces had a magic purpose and were used as amulets, talismans offering protection against the evil eye, etc.

During the 18th-19th century, the Renaissance silversmiths gradually abandoned the geometric, stylised artistic style of medieval silverware and turned to the wealth of the plant kingdom around them. They continued to develop some of the older traditions in the use of palmettes and rosettes as decorative elements. The medieval flat, stylised rendering of acanthus leaves was abandoned and the leaves acquired a distinctly three-dimensional quality in tsaprazia finger-rings and bracelets. Renaissance silverware was also penetrated by new elements borrowed from western European decorative styles: Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, ambir, etc. Oriental influences, which continued to enter Bulgaria, are also enriched by new shapes and motifs, such as poplars, strawberries, personifications of the sun in human form, Arabic decorative motifs, eastern architectural silhouettes, etc. During this period strong influences from wood-carving and wall-painting are also perceptible.

The local artistic style is defined by the individual features of the artistic techniques used by the craftsmen at the individual centres to manufacture traditional folk jewellery. Towards the end of the 18th century, the craftsmen in the silver-working centres of the economically more powerful regions began to turn with ever-increasing frequency to the mass production of traditional jewellery using not only the technology of casting, but also forging with moulds and also fretted filigree. Along with the technological advances in silverware during the Renaissance, these technologies made possible the mass production of artefacts of a much higher artistic level than the technique of casting, thus creating the preconditions for more flamboyant artistic creations. The specialised creative knowledge of the most acknowledged creative technicians start to dictate an artistic stereotype both to the consumers about their products and to other craftsmen. At this period, the silversmiths were still in direct contact with the consumers in the patriarchal village environment, since most of the professionally made traditional folk jewellery was disseminated on local markets near the silver-working centres. These products brought to their decoration a realistic and bright Renaissance passion, and at the same time a powerfully expressed traditional functional charge and commitment since, with the growth of handicrafts, metal jewellery gradually began to assume some of the functions of other objects of domestic folk production. Whereas before the Renaissance, embroideries, for example, were the main feature of status in the village or an indicator of age or family status, the development of professionally made silverware during the Renaissance meant that these functions were gradually assumed by jewellery made of metal, particularly silver jewellery, though not now in a narrow village context, but within the wider boundaries of the local market of the silver-working centre. As a result of the complex, contradictory process described, in which both the creators of the silverware and the customers participate on almost equal terms, the formation of distinctive artistic schools was achieved at some of the Renaissance centres, with a well-defined character, involving cooperative ventures and the handing down of principles and methods.

During the Renaissanace there was a strengthening of the aesthetic function of traditional folk jewellery, a phenomenon that is associated with the influence of bourgeois society in the process of formation. These processes are in turn connected with the penetration of Bulgarian silverware by hitherto unknown decorative elements and motifs drawn from western European decorative styles. Linking their art with European art, Bulgarian craftsmen adapted to the local consumer environment and gave new functional meaning to the foreign artistic influences. The artistic and technological development of the art of silver-making during the Renaissance, and the strong aesthetic function of traditional folk jewellery are amongst the most important preconditions for the very high achievements in the artistic formulation of most of the silverware of this period, which are now accepted as aesthetic values of irrevocable significance.

Traditional folk jewellery may be divided into two basic categories: jewellery designed to adorn the head, and jewellery for the body. The main components of the first category are earrings, diadems, forehead ornaments and hairpins, used either to adorn the hair or hold headscarves in position.

Earrings, in both ears, were usually worn by women. One variety of earrings were the ornaments that were larger than normal earrings and were worn suspended from the kerchief or a special band of material, or were braided into the hair above the ears. These were found amongst all the Slav peoples, and were worn in ones or twos, though occasionally there were as many as ten.

The simplest kind of earring and ornament above the ears consisted of thin undecorated wire rings. Sometimes the end of the ring was turned outwards in the shape of the letter S, a type known in the bibliography as S-shaped earrings. These earrings are a hallmark of the Slav peoples from the time of their displacement. They were very widespread amongst the West Slavs. In Bulgaria they were less common and disappeared from use at a fairly early date. Earrings with a bead threaded at the bottom, made of two hemispheres joined together were very widely found. The bead is often adorned with forged { vouitses }, with welded little beads, with filigree or with fretwork. Earrings are also found with more than one, most commonly three beads, though earrings of this type are known with 5, 6 or more beads. Another kind of earring is that { next } with biconical ornamentation, sometimes made of filigree or granulation. There are also earrings with ornaments in the form of double pyramids, in which additional little pyramids made of beads are welded to the walls of the large pyramids. Earrings consisting of two hemispherical rosettes made of filigree and decorated with beads are very common in medieval Bulgaria. Earrings were also often worn with decoration in the shape of a prism, made of small beads welded together. The so-called grape-like earrings were widespread amongst all the Slav peoples in the Middle Ages. They occur in many variations, from the simplest to fairly complex shapes. The simplest type was widespread in Bulgaria, though it was no longer found under Ottoman rule.

Gradually, from as early as the First Bulgarian State, heavier, richly embellished earrings and ornaments above the ears began to appear alongside the simpler, lighter ones. At first they were worn by wealthy Bulgarian women, mainly aristocratic ladies, but their use became increasingly common at the time of the Second Bulgarian State. During the period of Ottoman rule, they wore mainly heavy earrings and ornaments above the ears. At this time, the so-called arpalia reached the height of their popularity, and were worn in many parts of Bulgaria down to Liberation. These were round, usually forged and adorned with filigree and beads, though more rarely they were cast. Around a circular, richly decorated centre were attached tubes ending in granules. They were a development of an earlier medieval form preserved in earrings found at Dragizevo and dated by coins to the 14th century. According to some scholars, these earrings are so characteristic of certain ethnographically defined regions of Bulgaria that, together with the folk costume, they serve as sure ethnographic hallmarks, examples being the Vidin earrings, arpalia, three finger-rings, etc.

Earrings more commonly consist of almost closed circles, with or without a string of one or two little balls with {granules or ??} separated by disks with a smooth or dentilated outline, with or without attached chains and pendants (in a shape like the '{three little finger-rings}' - elliptical, forged {somatia} of different size or net cast little balls, welded fanwise to the ?? hook by which they are fastened in the ear, are fond in the shape of different sizes and kinds of {arpalia}, with differing numbers of spherical or elliptical {somatia} with a short handle, cast on the circumference of the circular disk at the centre with large or smaller granules, earrings with individual pendants {leios} cast or with ??, different shaped pendant earrings with filigree and with or without rosettes at the base of the attachment hook. In the second half of the 19th and first decades of the 20th century, the silversmiths of Sofia began to mass produce earrings by welding to the attachment hook old or new silver or gold coins, silver or common coins from the issues after Liberation. The use of coins in the manufacture of earrings is one of the signs of the decline of the art of working silver and gold, but despite this, the sense of beauty and the deeply layered tradition made the craftsmen add even a small amount of additional decoration - welding of solid or filigree rosettes, either individually or in a group - at the base of the attachment hook. The earrings were decorated with geometric patterns, straight and undulating lines, spirals, bows, circles with floral decoration, etc.

Temple rings were widespread and formed a characteristic ornament worn by Slav women. The wearing of 'temple rings' with threads tied around the temples at the side of the face on fabric (head scarf) is known from excavations in Bulgaria. These 'temple rings' were slowly transformed by the silversmiths from large heavy rings into smaller pieces of metal with longer chain pendants hung near the ear, known in Sofia as ornaments above the ears. Often, ornamnents worn above the ears were hung from each other by one or more chains that passed beneath the jaw. Beneath them hung many thin pieces of silver or thin coins. The ornament as a whole was called a podbradnik ('beneath the jaw').

The adorning of women's heads with diadems was an old Slav custom in Bulgaria. Diadems of this kind have been found in medieval burials, made of pieces of metal joined together, or narrow ribbons woven of gold-thread or silk, with pieces of silver or bronze sewn to them.

Pins were used to adorn women's hair or to secure the kerchief, which was rarer in Bulgaria in the Middle Ages. During the period of Ottoman rule, they were made in various shapes and with different techniques. They were worn almost everywhere in Bulgaria, but whereas in north-west Bulgaria (Belogradcik) they resemble arpalia earrings, at Vidin they were made of filigree, and those made in Sofia are mainly very large: a long, round skewer ending in an oval, spherical or extended octahedron covered with large and small spirals and lithographies, from the corners of which old, thin coins occasionally hang on rings. Pins were also made with smaller dimensions rounded body and skewers.

Trepkoi were worn on the kerchief, on the forehead and on the nape of the neck. They consisted of a round, solid or net piece of cast, inferior or good-quality silver (rarely of other material) adorned with geometric and floral patters, with coloured stones made of glass and placed in settings arranged symmetrically, cross-wise and at the centre. The decoration was in relief, hatched or with welded twisted silver thread, resembling filigree. The spaces between the decorations were often filled with enamel of various colours. Around the rim were welded small rings, from which hung fretted, elliptical, crescent, star-shaped, tulip shaped , rectangular, hexagonal, or triangular pieces of metal, cast or forged, decorated in the same way. This jewel, in all its variations, was manufactured at all centres of the silversmith's art.

Pendants are very similar to trepkoi in terms of their shape, manufacture decoration, and some of their component parts. Metal cutouts in the shape of a horse and rider were added to them. They were triangular and had a slightly rough surface decorated with an inner edge in the middle with relief painted crosses and various pendants: interlaced round rosettes in the shape of tulips, in the form of fretted round pieces enclosing a cross, the arms of which end in five-point stars with small crescents hanging from them or fretted spheres from which hung chains with trapezoidal forged metal cutouts attached to them. Pendants were cast of inferior silver or a copper alloy. They were sewn on bridal caps with a tail and on the bust. In addition to their decorative purpose, some of them (horse and rider, fretted round piece with a cross and a sphere with hanging chains) served as amulets that offered protection against the evil eye, or from illness.

Jewellery designed for the body includes necklaces, finger-rings, bracelets and metal belt adornments.

At the time of the First and Second Bulgarian States the necklaces most commonly worn were made of glass beads hung on a chain or little crosses and other pendants strung on an ordinary thread; the latter usually served as amulets. The torque (metal hoop worn around the neck), known since ancient times, was worn mainly by men, as a sign of distinction, and was apparently worn in medieval Bulgaria by the ruling class. Ioan. Exarchos states in his Hexahemeros that Symeon and his nobles had gold necklaces - that is, torques. No metal necklaces have survived from the time of the First and Second Bulgarian State.

To adorn their neck and breast, the women of Sofia wore a variety of ornaments, cast or forged form solid metal sheet, {fretted} or filigree, from inferior silver or base alloys, brass, with or without gilding, rarely of gold, of mother-of-pearls, animal bone and horn, pectoral crosses, medallions, pins, etc. Almost all women, and especially girls and brides used bought coins or coins that were family heirlooms, to make special jewellery for the head, neck, breast and waist, sewing them to false hair made of animal hair or wool, or to cotton ribbons, pieces of cloth or woollen linen. In his description of the jewellery worn by women from the area of Sofia, Konstantin Iretsek emphasises the use of coins in jewellery in the early years after Liberation. In the late 19th and early 20th century, gold coins began to displace handmade jewellery made of old silver coins, and the well-to-do wore individual coins or strings of coins called 'pentares'. For this purpose they used Turkish florins, Austrian mintses, florins, round or oval pieces of gold with smooth or dentilated edges and depictions of evangelical scenes.

The basic part of the metal yiordani was a broad band, densely woven of silver wire, threaded with little cylinders decorated with enamel and coloured stones set in special cavities. The pendants were formed of granulated rosettes, stylised tulips and multi-point stars hanging from rings. Large metal yiordania made of silver-gilt were also worn. These consisted of a band with a series of connected rectangular pieces of metal, cast and engraved with rosettes, and with small grains; the rectangles at the centre had coloured stones joined together. At the bottom of the pieces of metal were symmetrically placed pendants of various shapes solid or fretted, hanging from small rings: multi-leaf rosettes, round rosette with a cross, leaf-shapes, stylised tulip flower, six-point stars, some of them decorated with enamel.

The cross, as an ornament, is rendered in various manners, by forging noble metal, more commonly silver, by solid or fretted casting, sometimes with a hoop joining the ends of the arms, or without any such connection, with a relief depiction of the Crucifixion, adorned with floral decoration, with or without granules. Some silver crosses are compact like a cross-shaped box, forged on all sides; in others, both cross like shapes are used and are clasped both on the top and the bottom. These are known as enkolpia.

Medallions were made of silver in the shape of round, oval, or lozenge-shaped solid pieces of metal with biblical figures; or were made of filigree and adorned with all kinds of geometric and floral patterns, and symmetrically placed settings with coloured stones. amongst which were multi-leaf rosettes with silver pearls at the centre, with pendants made of bent thin wire, with or without a crown, of silver, gilded or not.

Pinst to fasten the open neck of a shirt or the dress adopted after Liberation, were often made of silver filigree in different shapes and sizes, with a variety of combinations of leafy or six-leaf rosettes, grapes on the vine with vine-leaves, pantouflitses, etc., made of silver, occasionally gilded. Pins of this kind were bought more by the Sofia bourgeoisie. Women from the villages around Sofia wore pins made by welding mainly silver coins from the first issues after Liberation, with one of the two sides used as the front.

Finger-rings were worn by both men and women. The most popular kind with all Slavs in the Middle Ages was the finger-ring which widened out at the top into a round, square or polygonal plaque bezel decorated with engraved floral or geometric patterns, and more rarely with human figures. Sometimes the name, or just the initial, of the ring's owner was engraved on the plaque. These were used as signet-rings, just like ancient finger-rings bearing monograms. Some of them were more solid. From these were gradually formed the rings known as bourmalia or kalathades - finger-rings with a cylindrical upper part cast from five separate pieces. These were very widespread during the Ottoman period. Finger-rings with a triangular projection at the top were used in archery. Finger-rings decorated with precious or semiprecious stones, or coloured pieces of glass, were also very common. Other rings, richly decorated with filigree and granules, were worn by wealthy citizens imitating the ruling class. Throughout the Middle Ages are to be found finger-rings of a variety of shapes: simple ring with or without a widening in the middle, with varied decoration, with a setting for a stone, usually a semiprecious stone with a mounted gemstone, small gold coins, or with engraved monograms, which bore the full name of the owner or just his initials, with applied multi-leaf rosettes symmetrically arranged on the front.v So-called polykona finger-rings were very commonly made and worn in Sofia and the surrounding area. These had, rarely, flying plaques and more commonly a thick cylindrical box, compact on both sides and welded to the ring. On one side they were adorned with geometric patterns, and sometimes also with coloured enamel. In the niche was placed a small ball that made a ringing noise with as the hand moved. These rings were given as engagement or wedding presents. They were called exchanges. Finger-rings were usually forged and decorated with floral, geometric and animal patterns, executed either during the forging, or added later by hand. Inferior silver was often used, non-gilded silver, and more rarely copper alloy or gold.

Bracelets were primarily women's ornaments. During the feudal period in Bulgaria, three kinds of bracelet were worn. The first was made of thin silver or bronze sheet, usually with open, flaring ends. Sometimes the ends were gathered or ended in little rings made of the same sheet, which were used to secure the bracelet. Bracelets of this kind were adorned with engraved geometric or more rarely floral designs. They were worn by all the Slav peoples in the Middle Ages. The second kind of bracelet was more solid. They were made of four-sided, slightly rounded wire. They were commonly forged from silver alloy. The ends were open and rounded. They either had engraved decoration or triangular or round holes sunk in the metal. A variety of this kind consists of bracelets imitating snake's heads. Solid bracelets, especially those imitating snake's heads, were common in ancient times. They had a magic and prophylactic significance. The Thracians, like many ancient peoples, worshipped the snake as a sacred animal. The third type of bracelet was made of twisted and braided wire. Bracelets of quadruple twisted wire ending in regalia were common amongst all the Slav peoples. Bracelets made of seven wires braided together were commonly worn. On the ends of these were forged thin triangular pieces of metal adorned with granules. Sometimes the middle part of the bracelet was forged in such a way simply as to imitate twisted and braided wires. From braided bracelets came solid cast bracelets which became very widespread during the Ottoman period. The middle part of these usually imitates wound wires, and they are more rarely decorated with floral patterns filled with enamel. The ends are adorned with thick beads, and there is a hemisphere at the junction with the middle part. A very common type in Sofia consisted of wide bracelets consisting of two halves, narrow or wide, that were half-rounded and joined together like hooks, which swelled out in the middle and were decorated with geometric and floral patterns. The silversmiths used silver, gold, gilding and also base alloys. The silversmiths of Sofia also made silver bracelets of filigree in a variety of shapes, in separately clasped little cylinders, with or without pendants, sometimes gilded, with geometric or floral patterns, with forged round or lozenge-shapes pieces of metal and silver pearls set one above the other, of different sizes, made of filigree, all unified in a whole. In the decades after Liberation, the silversmiths of Sofia cast gentler, broader little cylinders of silver-plated or gilded copper alloy, with geometric and floral patterns, or drew silver wire of differing thicknesses which they twisted and braided or made into large rings of different cross-sections.

Silver forged belts, and also silver decorations on leather belts, were widely worn in Bulgaria in the Middle Ages. In addition to belts made entirely of metal (often silver) sheet, there were three kinds of metal decorative plaques that were sewn on the straps of belts, ends that hung down below the belt, and buckle fastenings. In the early feudal period, metal edges were worn by men and were widely found both in the Byzantine empire and amongst the so-called barbarian peoples. Belt edges dating from the early Middle Ages have been found at Pliska, Preslav and other towns. Silver buckles were worn by both men and women. In addition to buckles, small solid pieces of metal, usually forged from silver alloy or copper, were used to fasten belts. They were worn on the front of the belt, and one ended in a catch and the other in a ring, into which the catch was inserted. Similar catches have been found in the cemetery at Novi Pazar, in a medieval burial at Vratsa, etc. In addition to these, catches that were chance finds are kept in many Bulgarian museums. From these belts developed the later tsaprazia , which were very widespread during the Ottoman period and were also worn in Bulgaria after Liberation. They are significantly larger in size and more varied in shape than the medieval fasteners. Some retained the old round shape with a triangular projection on the outside, others are rectangular and recall in this belt edges, while a third kind have the shape of the Indian palm with hooked top edges. The silver forged belts of Sofia were worn primarily by the well-to-do population. They consisted of a cast solid buckle forged which had a drum which ended in a long rounded tale. Sometimes there was a ring on the round edge of the left drum, with a short chain from which hung thin Turkish coins, and which ended in a thorn that entered the opening in the left drum with a hook to fasten the ring. Then, a line of long and short drums stand out. All the cylinders have the same decoration of geometric and floral patterns, and there is additionally zoomorphic decoration on the buckle, invariably in the form of two confronted stylised birds with or without a cap on the head, with a curved head. The forged belts typical of the silverware of Sofia were made of the same in shape, size and decoration tsaprazia and drums. Sometimes the silversmiths changed the shape, size and decoration of the cylinders, but the preference for traditional manners prevented them from being mass-produced. Silver and silver alloy were used for belts. These were not gilded. Women in Sofia and the surrounding area wore forged belts down to the First World War.

Forged silver tsaprazia (buckles). These consisted of two halves that were fastened to each other with a hook and secured by a long catch hanging from a chain, with or without threaded thin Turkish coins. On one half (the left) was a fixed, forged, oval cast tsaprazi , which was additionally intended to cover the needle and the bronze when fastened. The two halves were made of solid forged pieces of silver metal. The inside is widened, round or pointed, while the outside narrows to the shape of a long trapezium. They are adorned with relief geometric, floral and zoomorphic decoration. On the inside of each half are two narrow pieces of 'inferior silver' or copper to fasten the belt. The silversmiths of Sofia attempted to enliven the traditional shape of the long, forged silver tsaprazia typical of Sofia and the surrounding area. Other tsaprazia are more rounded, oval, ellipsoid with or without chains hanging below, with or without one or more coloured stones, with or without engraved mother-of-pearl plaques, which next. Tsaprazia were made of filigree, forged, hammered, cast, of silver, with or without gilding, of inferior silver, and of ignoble alloys.

Ecclesiastical vessels. A very large part of the output of the Bulgarian silversmith's art was destined to satisfy the need for silver (rarely gold, or of ignoble metals) ecclesiastical vessels: crosses, chalices, gift boxes, reliquaries, boxes, censers, lamps with the shape of a truncated cone, lamps with a conical shape with a single sphere, lamps with a conical shape with a double sphere, patens, plates, candlesticks suns, gospel book covers, icon covers, haloes around the heads of saints, covers on the arms, covers on the legs, reliefs of saints on silver or copper plaques, etc. These works were cast from inferior silver or other base alloys (brass), were forged from silver in thicker or thinner sheets, or made in filigree.

Ecclesiastical vessels were adorned lavishly or partially, depending on their purpose, with geometric, floral or zoomorphic decoration, with biblical figures and scenes from the gospels. Usually, the front cover of gospel books was decorated by the Crucifixion and the back by the Resurrection. The scenes are complex or simple, occupy the entire cover or only part of it, with a naive or realistic analysis of the objects depicted. A characteristic feature of the decoration is that the purely decorative element gradually retreated and was enriched compositionally. In cast or forged vessels (chalices, lamps, patens, etc.), the decorative impression with a graphic representation of the decoration, or with a partial or entire relief depiction. The older models are more solid, while the more recent are distinguished by the artistry of their execution.

Silver gospel covers, occasionally gilded, stuck partly or entirely on a coloured silk, velvet or leather binding, emphasise the outstanding skill of the silversmiths. These covers were usually adorned with the symbols of the four evangelists, or simply with the figures of the evangelists themselves. Texts from the gospels were frequently engraved on some parts, or inscriptions in which the craftsmen noted their name and other information. The silversmiths of Sofia made vessels for the Catholic churches of Dubrovnik and for other ethnic groups in the population of Sofia itself. The collection of the museum still preserves some superb original silverware items produced by the silversmiths of Sofia. Of particular interest are the silver cover of the Holy Scripture with the ten commandments, the silver crown with long decorative pieces of silver threaded on the wooden thorns, recalling inverted lamps with one or two spheres, copper or silver candlesticks, ceremonial silver chalices, with or without gilding, a pointer, in the form of a long, solid, engraved silver needle used in reading from the Holy Scriptures, and other items.

The silversmiths were able to borrow elements from both the East and the West, which they creatively reworked in their own manner, the characteristic features of which are round shapes and gentle curves are. As everywhere else in Bulgaria, they used in their decoration a variety of rosettes, different decorative motifs, and depictions of animals. Geometric patterns were very common: straight lines, zigzags, circles, triangles, lozenges, rhomboid tables, and cones, freely engraved, worked in repousse or cast. Floral motifs were very popular, such as acanthus leaves, palm-trees, trefoils, lilies, cypresses, vines (with or without grapes), tulips, and roses. The silversmiths of Sofia enriched this floral decoration by adding strawberries, leaves and stalks with one or more flowers, rosettes, and branches with leaves or flowers. They also made use of depictions of animals (doves with heads and wings in various positions, one-headed or double-headed eagles with spread wings, dragons, and horses) and depictions of the evangelists with or without their symbols, scenes from the gospels - Crucifixion, Anastasis, Baptism, St George slaying the dragon, etc. - rendered naively or realistically.

Sofia was one of the most advanced centres of silverware, with many churches and monasteries in its environs, which were known as the "Lesser Mount Athos". There is no other centre of silver-working that has preserved so many gospel coveres of the 15th-19th century, with inscriptions in Bulgarian or Church-Slavonic. The products of the silversmiths of Sofia have a distinct variety of shapes and decoration and are very valuable from an artistic point of view. The study of manuscripts, notebooks, and incunabula and the examination of many publications of the past have yielded the names of well-known silversmiths and entire families who worked at the art. The silver, gold and other jewellery and artefacts point to mass production and wide dissemination amongst the population, and define the character of the output of silverware in Sofia and its environs. The most characteristic pieces are the solid cast bracelets, the clones finger-rings- exchange, long forged silver tsaprazia , forged silver belts, and silver covers of gospel books and icons. The silversmiths of Sofia exhibit masterly control of the techniques of silver-working and skill in the manufacture of the artefacts. With the gradual decline of the art in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century, silverware in Sofia lost its importance, thanks to the invasion of western fashion and cheaper, flashier jewellery, which displaced the older products. Through their feeling for the special, artistic mind of the Bulgarians, and their zealous retention of traditional shapes and decoration, the silversmiths have made a great contribution to the developments of professions in folk art.

Silver also played an important role in the decoration of various weapons during the Middle Ages, transforming them into objects with an artistic as well as a utilitarian purpose. The decoration employs oriental floral patterns alongside linear patterns with Baroque elements, and in this way attains a new style in the 19th century, known by the name 'Balkan Baroque'. Armourers often worked together with silversmiths, who were concerned with attaching inscriptions to the cutting edge with the metal cover of the handle and the scissors with its decoration. Various techniques were used: forging, casting, welding, welding, filigree, setting semiprecious stones, silver-plating, gilding, etc. The decoration of the cutting edge plays a central role and was done only by forging with silver, gold or copper welding. In general terms, the decorative composition follows the tradition of Arabic art, and is designed to show off the shape and structural characteristics of the weapon itself. Two basic types of knife sheaths were made: one with a cover entirely of metal, and one only partly of metal, which was usually placed at the two ends, preserving the basic principle of applying a uniform decorative schema to the handle and the sheath. Firearms - rifles and revolvers - were also the object of decoration with high artistic values. The barrels were additionally decorated with engraving, silver gold or copper welding at the top part of the powder magazine and the mouth with highly stylised floral and more rarely geometric patterns, which followed the artistic tradition of the East. Forged, engraved or fretted decoration was also applied to the other metal parts - the striking mechanism, the back parts, the clips beneath the trigger, and the covers linking the barrel to the stock. Great potential for decoration was provided by the butt and the stock, which were made by specialist craftsmen called stockmakers. The main centres for making and decorating weapons were Sliven, Gabrovo, Sofia, Kazanlik, Nikopol, Vratsa, Vidin, Panagiouriste and other Bulgarian towns.

There are no studies of modern silverware in Bulgaria. It may be concluded that the old traditions are being continued, from a number of objects produced by contemporary artists, such as the items in the Silverart programme, and the associated seminars and publications. The transformation of the tradition into modern art appears to be a slow, complex process, which needs time, observation, and scholarly exegesis. In any case, modern industry is increasingly strangling the potential of handmade silverware to struggle for a regular existence. We are left with the hope that a solution will be found that will prevent this huge, rich treasure bequeathed to us by the past from being lost.

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