(click on photos to enlarge image)
STERLING NIELLO DRINKING HORNS OF KUBACHI
Kubachi is the village whose name is known far beyond the
borders of Dagestan (Russia). It is located high in the
mountains. The Darghins live there, representatives of one of
indigenous nationalities of Dagestan. During the middle ages the
village was widely known in Dagestan and abroad as an important
metalworking centre, where coats-of-mail, swords, daggers and
the like were produced.
This village is located very close to the Dagestan's capital
Makhachkala. But it's more than 40 hours by train from the
Russian capital Moscow. Dagestan is a small part of federal Russia.
The name of the village - Kubachi - represents the Turkic
from the Persian word "Zirihgheran", which means "makers of
weapons". This land was mentioned by some Arab and Iranian
historians and travelers as early as the 9th and 10th centuries.
Silversmiths manufactured many different elements of arms and
the costumes for warriors such swords, daggers, guns and
cartridge belts, or belts. The pictures show similar products as
part of the suit at the Caucasus.
The fame of Kubachi has been created by the skilful hands of
its residents, who are masters of the amazing secrets of metal
chasing. The craftsmanship of the local goldsmiths has been
passed from one generation to another. And that's why any boy or
girl, who hasn't yet learned to read or write, can handle the
chisel and work elementary designs on a copper or brass plate.
Kubachi - is an example of local craftsmanship silver
production. It is very characteristic of Russia (old and new).
The wood products from Khokhloma and other villages under
Nizhniy Novgorod, trays from Zhostovo, lacquer miniatures from
Mstera and Palekh, multicolor enamel silver items from the
Velikiy Ustug are known around the world.
Every house in Kubachi had the handicraft workshop in old times.
Their homes are like miniature museums. In Soviet times, these
artists have joined as crew -manufacture. This has led to a
significant increase in the number of products, but is unlikely
to add a little bit of quality. The traditional nielloed silver
object done by Kubachi jewelers won high acclaim at the 1937
Word Exhibition in Paris.
Surprising distinctive feature of Kubachi products is no items with
identical picture among them. The form of products changes a
little by centuries. But view - the face of a product - is
The list of products of Kubachi masters is great. But in the
given essay we will only look at some drinking horns. This is
one of typical of Kubachi products. In local museums there are
the samples made in the beginning of 19th century.
Ritual horns from the precious metals, intended for leaders of
ancient tribes, today have lost the former direct destination,
but still keep the importance and beauty. The refined work of
masters gives the delightful refinement to it.
Silversmiths are used for manufacturing the natural material -
sterling and a horn of the bull or ox. Magnificent silver horn
is unusual capacity for wine. Still our distant ancestors have
opened, that any liquid, adjoining to silver, gets an amazing
taste. Especially if it refers to wines. For this reason princeses
preferred to taste wine from silver cups. With such drinking
horn filled with wine it would be desirable to wish to dear
friends of east longevity and wisdom with all my heart.
The articles produced by then are distinguished by the fine
executions, most delicate engraving and a broad variety of
vegetation motifs. The silver horn can serve as an excellent
ornament for the house or office. Some samples only...
Wine drinking horn bears the silver hallmark of a worker's head
and standard 875. The district mark is "O". This combination was used
between 1954 and 1958. Tbilisi assay inspection. The gore point
features a niello figural bird's head, which is also hallmarked.
It is about 7 1/2" long tip to tip and about 2" in diameter at
the widest part of the lip.
Other real horn and niello sterling silver. IKXK -Kubachi
artistic combine, hallmarks includes the sickle and hammer
inside of a five-pointed star - USSR, 1971, "875" standard.
Letter M - Moscow assay inspection.
Some more horns... Glamorous, elegant, classy,
sophisticated, originally designed and charming. Always in
perfect taste. Each item has different ornament.
The next horn is very unusual. It is nice antique original
traditional Kubachi/Georgian silver drinking horn. The item was
made late 19th century. This horn has an imperial Russian silver
A pair of late 19th century Russian horns with silver niello
mounts. I was only able to find the marks seen in the close up.
Hard to photograph and see but the "84" mark is there and then
other marks of the spacer ring. Each horn is approximately 11"
The special beauty distinguishes greater drinking horns. The
powerful crooked ox's horns serve as basis for them. When I am
holding a large horn in hands, I see the usual drinking horns,
described by us earlier, like gold of the Mexican shop in
comparison with royal ornaments.
The length of this horn exceeds 20". The volume of the horn
is near to 1/2 gallon. A usual horn contains about 1-2 glasses of
wine. It's like a "bratina" as they spoke in the old days -a vessel
for the incorporated friendly company. A vessel, which passes
from hand to hand. Certainly, it's not a vessel for wine any
more, it's an ornament. The ox horn is inlaid Kubachi jewelers
of silver of 875 tests.
Next pictures show the parts of big crooked ox's horn.
Many of Kubachi products don't have any hallmarks. This is
because the masters make their products at home as gifts or to
make some additional income. Often, these products are not
inferior items with hallmarks and sometimes even surpass them in
On January 1, 1899, on the basis of new assay charter was introduced to Russian stamp
with the image of a female head in a kokoshnik, directed
to the left. Assay's charter used also the initials operating assay master (or assayer's mark,
and, sometimes, of Russian standard tests (zolotnik test). (Zolotnik test means 84 zolotnik = 84/96 or 875/1000 parts pure silver, or .875)
Since 1908, new hallmarks with the image of a female head in
a kokoshnik are entered on all assay districts, the head facing
right, accompanied letter of the Greek alphabet -various for
every assay districts. Zolotnik marks- no changes.
The hallmark as a head of the worker with a hammer with code
of assay inspections as the Greek letter or a version of dots
and hyphens was used after 1927. Test is designated by number of
thousand fractions of silver in an alloy.
Approbation of products Kubachi artistic combine (KXK) were made
basically in Moscow, Tbilisi, or Baku inspections. Old products
were approved only by the Tbilisi inspection (with 1866). These
inspections had the following designations:
Moscow - Delta or one dot under a hammer.
Tbilisi -Omicron (O) (or dots in front and behind a head).
Baku -Zeta (Z) or two hyphen in front and below.
These kinds of marks were applied in 1958 with a few changes.
Since May, 7th 1958 hallmarks included the sickle and hammer
inside of a five-pointed star with code of assay district in the
form of the Russian letter or dot and/or hyphens. The mark also
included the purity test (875 meaning 875/1000).
On the products of Kubachi artistic combine (KXK) there can
be codes of Moscow (M), or Baku,
or Tbilisi (T) assay districts. In different years there were
also codes of Kostroma (K) or Kharkov (X) assay inspections.
These inspections had the following designations in a brand (hallmark
Moscow - the letter M or one dot on top left to angle of a star.
Tbilisi - the letter T or a dot and a hyphen on bottom to angle
of a star.
Baku - the letter or one dot on top right to angle of a star.
Kostroma - the letter K or one dot on bottom left to angle of a
Kharkov - the letter X or a dot and a hyphen on bottom left to
angle of a star.
Since 1953 they began to add a code of the manufacturer as a
last digit of the year. For example: KXK5 confirms that the
product was made in 1965.
The table shows data for products Kubachi artistic combine (KXK).
Thus there can be the codes of Moscow (M), or Baku , or
Tbilisi (T) Assay districts. In some years there were also
hallmarks codes of Kostroma (K) or Kharkov (X) Assay districts.
Since 1994 assay hallmarks operating were applied and are
still the same today. It is the image of a female head in a
kokoshnik, directed to the right. Codes of assay districts have
remained without changes.
Hallmarks with a star were used partially until 2002.
Kubachi products are constantly present in the jeweler
market of many countries. These products are beautiful and
others are not similar of Kubachi object. It is this creative
approach to old Kubachi art that distinguishes the best works of
the leading craftsmen of our time.
The famous Dagestan poet Rasul Gamzatov wrote with enthusiasm:
The mystery of Kubachins art
Do not look for in a thread of silver.
Wear the mystery of this art
In the heart of Kubachins master.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lazar Freidgeim, engineer, research fellow. He was
born in Moscow, the capital of Russia, and has lived
there most of his life. Since 1991 he lives in
California (USA). In 2003 - retired - he began to
publish his articles and essays in magazines,
newspapers and online. His hobby is collecting old
Sterling silver, mainly from Russia. His main
interest is silver with images of architectural
monuments of Moscow.