Marja-Leena Rathje
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old Finnish jewelry


Somewhat related to my 'textures of home' series, but much more personal, featured here are some very old Finnish pendants and a brooch that have been passed on to me. These styles were and still are commonly worn with the Finnish national costumes.

I don't know if these were made by Kalevala Koru but I rather think so for the company's designs are based on replicas of ancient Iron Age jewelry discovered in Finland and Scandinavia by archaeologists. I've just learned a bit more about the company's fascinating history and that it's fully owned by women in Finland. Some of you may know the name Kalevala comes from the Finnish national epic poem. These may not be priceless precious jewels but I love that these pieces are made of local heavy brass or bronze and are not shiny and new looking like some of my newer Kalevala Koru pieces (though I love those too). To me they feel full of history and ancient culture as well as being family heirlooms. I do wear these often particularly the dark pendant which is my favourite.

Added January 25th, 2012: Thanks to a nice surprise -- an article about a 1941 Kalevala Koru catalogue at the Finnish Kansanperinne-blogi (ancient traditions blog), I'm now able to identify two of the pendants, second from the left and the far right one, as being Kalevala Koru creations, and the date! I'm so very pleased to know this.

Added December 30th, 2012: While looking for something else on my blog, I came across this photo of my mother, wearing the pendant on the right. Read the story behind it in the comments.


Oh, these are beautiful!

Very nice, Marja-Leena! Do they make a noise when you walk? Sometimes heavier necklaces make a charming klink-klink sound ...

Lovely. I like the curved brooch, you'd need a rather gorgeous cloak or stole or some such to wear it on!

I find these very beautiful.

I showed my Finnish friend and colleague, whose taste is often similar to mine. She sniffed and said she has some pieces, but never wears them; these are very old fashioned; when she was young (she's my age) little girls were typically given Kalevala jewellery as a confirmation present...

It's predictable and amusing, isn't it, that what is exotically beautiful to me, and I think full of nostalgia and family feeling for you, is utterly mundane to someone who grew up with it?

Loss or lack of a homeland is sad, but also a great source of imagination and re-enchantment.

Maria, I'm glad you like these.

R, these are quiet and well-behaved in spite of their wild ancestry :-)

Lucy, yes, I think the originals were also used to hold shawls together over the costumes.

Jean, thanks for the interesting comments about your friend's reaction. Taste is a funny thing, isn't it? The company is hugely successful with new products always being made that are not old fashioned even while referencing the ancient designs.

When I was in my teens, I always admired the dark one hanging on the dresser of an old family friend who was like a grandmother to me. I don't think she ever wore it for it's dull and clunky and was 'not in style'. When she moved back to Finland in her last years, she left it behind with various other things and I eagerly took it. I like it for being unusual, exotic if you will, and I receive many looks and some compliments when I wear it. When we go to the Finnish community here, I see a lot of the newer daintier Kalevala Korus being worn and I do wear these sometimes too.

yes I love that one too - it looks like some kind of animal with wild spiral eyes.

Fire Bird, yes, I think so too!

They are all beautiful pieces but like you, I'd probably wear the dark one too. It is very mysterious and bird-like.

I love to look at archeological finds of ancient jewelry and I think the northerners were as skilled in brass and bronze as those who had access to gold.

Susan, I too love archeological finds of ancient jewelry. I'm often amazed how much commonality in designs there are across wide regions.

this photo is so interesting as the old korut are beautiful, and as some of your readers have commented, it is true that some fell out of style and were not cherished. But now? Vintage is in, baby!

Taina, yes, vintage is popular now.

I think these are beautiful. They seem in some ways reminiscent of celtic designs.

MB, I agree about the similarity. When we were in Prague's museum some years ago, we were fascinated how many celtic design items were found in that country, and how similar these are to the Viking era and all over Europe. Perhaps these designs are universal to many peoples.