The centuries old craft sets sail for new horizons...

Turkey, among the world’s five biggest markets for jewelry, is the third biggest fabricator of gold ornamentation.

For centuries, gold jewelry has been important for the lives in the people of Anatolia. Turkey has the fifth biggest gold jewelry market in the world after India, China, the US and Russia.

What is changing is that Turkish jewelers have turned their faces to the world with exports. Twenty years ago expert jewelers were producing and selling their rings, bracelets and brooches mainly on the domestic market to satisfy local demand. The picture began to change in the year 2000 with a boom in exports.

In 2000, Turkey’s jewelry sector exports stood at $394 million. In 2014, it jewelry exports had reached $4.368 billion, an 1100% increase.

Turkey today has an annual gold refining and jewelry fabrication capacity of 400 tons and ranks third behind India and Italy in gold jewelry output. The expansion in the number of foreign tourists visiting Turkey is bolstering the growth of the industry. The nation has 5,000 gold fabricators and 35,000 retailers of jewelry.

Istanbul is the heart of the jewelry sector. But there are many production and design centers of gold jewelry. Twenty-four universities in 20 provinces offer programs and undergraduate degrees in jewelry design.

Institutionalization in the Jewelry Industry

Jewelry was the work of craftsmen and small businessmen. Revolving around a master craftsman, it was a small business. But with the effects of exports, a large number of large-scale jewelry producers have emerged in Turkey. Big investments entered the business.

The company Arpas, founded in 1982, is one of these. It has annual exports of $150 million in gold jewelry. It established Europe’s biggest gold jewelry fabrication in Istanbul. Today, among the world’s top 10 jewelry fabricators.

Altınbaş Kuyumculuk is another company in the sector that has drawn attention to it’s exports. In 2014, Altınbas Kuyumculuk won the international Luxury Lifestyle Award in the luxury jewelry category, ahead of many world-renowned collections. It was awarded the prize for its original designs, its successful trademark management and its meeting of consumer needs.

The Turkish Jewelry Sector Exports (In Million $)

2000 - 394

2005 - 1.167

2010 - 1.538

2014 - 4.368

2015 - 3.660

2016 - 3.676

2017 - 3.300

Source: (TÜİK, Foreign Trade Statistics, 2017)

The World’s First Shopping Mall

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the best-known sites in Turkey. Every day, up to 500,000 shoppers visit the complex. It is one of the world’s 10 top visited sites and is the world’s biggest and first real covered shopping complex. It is the pinnacle of the trade complexes, karums (ancient shopping areas) and agoras of millenniums of civilization. The Grand Bazaar has been actively serving customers since 1461. The foundations for the trade and crafts center were laid by Sultan Mehmet II after he conquered Istanbul in 1453. The complex was built in sections and according to needs over a 250-year time span.

In the Grand Bazaar’s background are the East-West and North-South trade routes that intersected in Istanbul and, of course, the vast gold jewelry trade. With a warren of 61 streets, 4,000 shops and 14 hans (old business buildings), it continues as a vital commercial center of Istanbul. The bazaar also has two bedestens, where an assortment of home textiles, leatherwear, carpets, and ceramic tiles are sold, and 18 fountains. Although it has undergone many changes over the centuries, it still has streets and sections where specialized artisans and craftsmen carry out their trade.

Everything is sold inside from gold, copper and bronze jewelry to hand woven carpets, ceramic plates and tiles, onyx figurines, leather goods to other objects of traditional and modern Turkish arts and crafts.

A treasury and Great Sturdy Fortress Famed Turkish traveler and tourism writer Evliya Çelebi (1611-1688) was the son of the chief of jewelers at the Ottoman Palace. In his book of travels, he described the Grand Bazaar as an “a treasury and great sturdy fortress” and had the following to say about the complex and shop owners:

.“…In a crowded and selected place of Istanbul stands a great treasury and great sturdy fortress. All the goods acquired by the viziers (ministers) and Ayan (senior government officials) during military campaigns can be found here. There are many underground cellars inside closed by iron gates. … A painting of the frightening bird with its wings open stands on top of the eastern gate that opens to the jewelers market…The reason why the picture stands there is to warn the businessmen inside that earning money like capturing a wild bird… If you hunt with the bird with kindness, you can make money in this market.”