The Art of Telkari

"Telkari" is a traditional Turkish jewellery making technique and its name is derived from the very thin metal wires that are used to create this most delicate and striking of jewellery. Only a select few jewellery makers still use this extremely difficult and arduous technique in the Turkish cities of Mardin, Ankara and Trabzon in silver and gold. All of the jewellery featured on our site is made of 950 grade silver and is hallmarked in this way, unless otherwise stated.

The Grade of Silver Used in Our Jewellery

Silver in its pure form (also known as fine silver) has a grade of 999, and is very soft and flexible. In fact, these features make the metal inadequate for jewellery. For this reason, silver is mixed up with other metals (mostly copper) to form an alloy that is strong enough for jewellery crafting.

925 grade silver (or Sterling Silver) is a mix of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or other metal. This type of silver is commonly used in mass-produced jewellery (that is, machine-made) in order to withstand the treatment machines give to the metal.

950 grade silver (sometimes called French 1st standard or in other cases Mexican silver) is a mix of 95% silver and 5% copper or other metal. This type of silver is more suitable for handcrafted jewellery, as it is more flexible than Sterling silver.

950 silver is as beautiful, if not more than Sterling silver. There is also the added distinction that behind a 950 silver jewellery piece is a skilled artisan most likely, not a machine.

The Three Distinct Telkari Techniques

Hasir Telkari (Wicker Filigree)
In Hasir Telkari the items are made by knitting together the specially made thin wires. The Craftsman begins by knitting the gold or silver wires into a strap as wide as up to eight centimetres. These straps are then flattened under roller press machines to produce even thinner straps which are used to knit jewellery or decorative items.

Kakma Telkari (Carved Telkari)
In Kakma Telkari metal wires are embedded into carved grooves in wooden, metal or stone objects by piling with a hammer. Items are carved by chisels, drills or using acidic solutions. Once the wires are piled, the surface is sanded or filed to achieve a smooth finish prior to final polishing. Our Gaziantep wooden jewellery boxes feature telkari made in this way.

Kafes Telkari (Frame Filigree)
In Kafes Telkari relatively thick wires (up to one millimetre in diameter) are used to create the frame of the item. This wire is cut to size, shaped and welded to each other to create the final frame. The void areas in the frame are then filled by expertly shaping the thinner wires into the desired design. Once the design is complete, the craftsman welds all the ends of the individual wires to finish and secure the item. Most of our jewellery items are made in Ankara and Mardin in this way and the detailed stages are described below.

The stages of Kafes Telkari (Frame Filigree)

Like most traditional Turkish Craftsmen, the Telkari master prepares his own material in order to showcase his art. This means creating the silver wire using unprocessed silver rather than purchasing prepared wires. The stages are described below:

Wire Making: Silver in bullion form is melted and cast into purpose made grooves to create silver sticks. These sticks are pressed under a round rolling press to make them thinner and longer. In olden days this was a menial task completed by manually operated tools. Today, automated mini rolling machines are used to roll the thin wires from silver sticks.

Drawing the Design: The Craftsman draws the required design onto paper in real scale (1/1) and thus defines the thickness of the individual wires to be used. All the information required to create the final design is contained in this drawing.

Cutting the wires: Using the design drawing individual pieces are cut to the required length and thickness. As the wires are processed they become harder and more difficult to use. For this reason, the craftsman must heat the wires continually while he proceeds.

Realising the Design: The craftsman creates the frame of the object by cutting, shaping and welding the thicker wires according to the design drawing. He then proceeds to fill in the void areas by expertly shaping the thinner wires, and attaching any gemstones in the process.
Welding and Connection: As the jewellery is made up only of wires, it is critical to ensure that the item will stay intact over time. This is achieved by welding all loose ends of wires which is an extremely difficult task, considering the delicacy of the wires in question. Welding is performed by extremely skilful and patient masters who must ensure that the welding heat does not melt the whole item made of extremely thin wires. To overcome this, he files some silver to create tiny silver particles and mixes them with borax powder to create the final welding mix.

Once the item is complete, the craftsman cleans all the residues from the item and polishes it by rubbing on a flat steel surface.