We know from the Ottoman court records of 1526 that 90 jewelry artisans were employed by the Sultan and important women of the Harem.  The art extended, not only to every form of wearable jewelry, but also to every day objects like tableware and even weapons.

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During Ottoman times, jewelry was produced within the actual palace compound or in workshops elsewhere in the neighborhood.  Grand Bazaar Jewelers is proud to offer pieces made in this same Istanbul neighborhood for over 500 years.  

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Ottoman jewelry is unique in a variety of ways.  It is ornate and colorful.  A variety of metals are used and the stone and metal are prominent.  Aigrettes were used both by the Sultan and notable women of the Harem. An aigrette is a spray of gems worn on a hat or in the hair.  It was the symbol of power because of its shape and appearance. It is known that Sultans gave the valuable aigrettes as presents or as awards to certain individuals. Jewelled aigrettes also enhanced the heads of horses during equestrian ceremonies. They attracted attention with their simple floral or drop designs and reflected the brightness of the precious gems on them. In later periods, the aigrettes were huge. In portraits the sultans usually wore one aigrette but sometimes they wore three. 

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Women wore more than one aigrette but sometimes they put one on their forehead and another on the back of their head.  With the huge success of the Turkish show, “The Magnificent Century” or Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Turkish pronunciation: [muhteˈʃæm ˈjyzjɯl]), hair ornaments are back in vogue and hugely popular, especially for weddings.  

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“The Magnificent Century” centers around the golden age of the Ottomans.  It is based on the life of Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hürrem Sultan, a slave girl who became Sultana – much to the astonishment of many.  She went on to become one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and a kind of heroine for many women.  

Here are some pictures of modern brides with Turkish hair jewelry:

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Pins were also important pieces of jewelry in women’s head ornaments. These ornaments were pinned to crests or put directly on the hair or sometimes they were put on the brooches of dresses. The “Titrek” or “Zenberekli” are typical Ottoman pins which dangle with each move of the body. Motifs from nature such as the tulip, rose, violet, floral bouquet, bird, butterfly and bee are mostly used in this type of jewelry. Jewelry with flower motifs was used on the hair.

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Maureen Gumus is a writer, editor, jewelry enthusiast, and world traveler.Originally from the U.S., Maureen is proud to call Istanbul her home - one that she shares with her master jeweler husband, Nurhan, and their cat, Mink.

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