Jewellery from the Roof of the World

From China to the Caucasus, The Ghysels Collection

28 September 2012 - 3 March 2013


This exhibition tells of the immensity of the wilderness that runs from China to the Caucasus. Some 200 pieces of jewellery from the famous Ghysels Collection lead the visitor along the Silk Roads, through Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Whether they be made of amber, turquoise, coral, gold, or silver, inlaid with gems or embellished with feathers, these jewels of exceptional quality reveal peoples, civilisations, and cultures whose memory is gradually fading. They convey also the passion and perseverance which took Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels to every continent of the planet in their search for ornaments, always guided by two basic criteria: quality and beauty. Seduced by the richness of the ancestral traditions of these peoples, they have unceasingly assembled these witnesses of vanishing worlds.
These pieces of jewellery owe their singular beauty to the sparkle of their colours and the precious materials they are made of. While gold was favoured by the elite, most of these examples consist of silver, turquoise, coral, or carnelian. Whether they live nomadic or sedentary lives, these “peoples from the Roof of the World” all demonstrate remarkable imagination in the manner in which they show off the status of their clan or tribe. Far from being worthless trinkets, these headdresses, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and heavy metalwork belts retrace the main stages in a person’s life, very often combining ornament with talismanic protective or healing virtues. But jewellery also serves as a way of storing wealth and foiling the whims of destiny, or as the dowry which helps a woman care for herself despite her fragile status.

Alongside the jewellery, a number of old photographs from the Photographic Archives of the Musée national des Arts asiatiques – Guimet, in Paris are also on show.