Think jewellery in Tbilisi: think cloisonné. At least, that’s what you’ll be presented with on the tourist trail. Still there’s nothing wrong with cloisonné, and contemporary Georgia does it very well.
Head for Erekle II Street – if you can find it amongst the rabbit warren of confusing streets that make up Tbilisi’s newly renovated Old Town – and there you’ll find a triple whammy of Western-style (and Western priced) jewellery shops. First up is Pokany, a small but exquisite retail space which sells religious icons as well as intricate cloisonné pendants and earrings. Its a friendly shop and makes the most of its limited display space. There are no bargains here, but I did like the delicacy of the products on offer.
Ornament Gallery has a branch at 7 Erekle II Street, and has now opened a second elsewhere in the city. The Gallery sells a range of traditional Georgian crafts, including jewellery. What I like about Ornament is that the provenance of each item is clearly displayed with the name of the craftsperson who made it. Every piece if unique. Ornament is NOT cheap, but it is special. Yes, I did find a very special cloisonné pendant featuring a coral colour I have found hard to find elsewhere. And yes, that pendant is now my holiday souvenir of Georgia.
Monte is a small chain of jewellery shops with a number of branches in Tbilisi, including Erekle II Street, and one further branch at the tourist trap village of Mtskheta (home to one of Tbilisi’s most spectacular and revered cathedrals.) I loved Monte for its beautiful displays. What put me off somewhat was its reliance on selling jewellery sets rather than one-off pieces. It was by courtesy of a branch of Monte that I came to realise that most gold on sale in Georgia is 14kt. Although I love the brave and brash designs on display at Monte, its just a touch too “blingy” for me.
I missed out on the Gold Market by Tbilisi’s main railway station is where “real” Tbilisi residents go for their jewellery. This was largely due to a combination of poor planning, sheer holiday laziness and not really having left enough time to do justice to Tbilisi. So I can’t vouch for anything regarding the market and, as I’d love to go to Tbilisi again some time, this will be a bigger priority on my hit list.
However, travel for any amount of time outside Tbilisi, and you’ll soon get sobered up on the jewellery front. For all the bravado of the capital, Georgia is a poor country. The reality is that any jewellery bought by most Georgians is likely to be from small kiosks, located near the market part of town. I detect the lingering influence of former “Mother” Russia in the jewellery available to most Georgians. Still, I’m happy to report that I really did spot cloisonné being worn by “ordinary” Georgian – mainly young – women.