The Art of Ukrainian Bead Necklaces

Yesterday, Ukrainians celebrated Vyshyvanka Day, the day of the national embroidered shirt. This traditional garment has so much significance as an embodiment of quintessentially Ukrainian art and sense of beauty that its celebration is a day that many anticipate with pleasure. This week Ukraine’s eastern region of Kharkiv was heavily shelled by Russia, but whenever it was safe, people still came out into the streets wearing vyshyvanka. Certainly, vyshyvanka can be worn anytime and I have many pieces that range from exquisitely embroidered blouses to simple white shirts with subtle decoration.

A popular companion to vyshyvanka is a necklace. Ukrainian traditional jewelry is quite elaborate and there are many types of necklaces made of different materials–stones, coral, amber, ribbons, wood, glass. Some of my favorite traditional necklaces are of the beaded style. Gerdan is a wider, longer necklace that looks like a pendant. Kryza is even larger and it  falls like a collar around the neck (that’s the style you can see in the title photo.) Silyanka is a narrow, choker-style necklace.

Gerdan and silyanka are made of beads that form complex geometric patterns. They come in a dazzling array of colors and designs and below are some of the gerdan and silyanka necklaces from my collection.

They are easy to wear and style and their vivid colors complete a simple outfit. If I wear jeans and a black V-neck sweater, I almost invariably select a gerdan or silyanka to embellish my look.

While I typically buy my necklaces in Ukraine, I have recently ordered a few pieces from a shop on Instagram called Novyy_Lad. Marianna made my necklaces to order, shipped them quickly, and they arrived just in time for me to wear them with a vyshyvanka on May 16th. Marianna speaks English and ships all over the world. You can select the designs you like via her page, and if you want to change colors or patterns, she can accommodate such requests easily. Gerdans cost around 30 dollars, depending on the size and design’s complexity, while silyanka necklaces are 10-15 dollars.

If you order anything from Marianna, I would love to hear what you’ve selected. I try as much as possible to support small businesses and artisans, in Ukraine and beyond, and part of the pleasure I derive from my necklaces is knowing that they were made with love and care.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, the large ivory kryza is made by a Ukrainian designer Khrystyna Rachytska. The silyanka are from Marianna’s Novyy Lad store.

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8 Comments

  • Verena Martin-Dickin: Oh how beautiful! I love traditional craft pieces. Amazing beadwork. So rich in beauty and significance. Thank you for sharing these. Our prayers continue. There is another lady who draws lovely designs in the Ukraine who has managed to keep her business going. Collaborating with a company in the UK she has turned many of her drawings into rubber stamps for arts and crafts and I have collected quite a few over the last couple of years. Mainly animals, flowers, fairy and gnome characters. The characters have such charming expressions that even adults want to play with them. Enjoy your necklaces and I hope you have sunshine to enjoy. May 17, 2024 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: How wonderful! What’s the name of the company that sells these stamps? I’d love to take a look at the designs. May 20, 2024 at 3:55am Reply

  • Joan Rosasco: These are beautiful, Victoria! May 17, 2024 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad that you liked them. May 20, 2024 at 3:54am Reply

  • Aurora: What a lovely tradition, and those beaded necklaces are so beautiful, glad you are enjoying your purchases. May 17, 2024 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: They’re so beautifully made! May 20, 2024 at 3:54am Reply

  • Kaisa: Thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition! Lovely necklaces. May 22, 2024 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: So glad that you liked them! May 23, 2024 at 2:19am Reply

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