Ottoman Treasure

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The Oxus Treasure. A collection of priceless artefacts gathered over the span of the Achaemenid Empire, before its collapse at the hands of Alexander the Great more than 300 years BC.

The mystic Oxus Treasure consisted of thousands of precious objects, but less than 200 pieces remained upon its unearthing in the late 19th century – discovered on the banks of the Oxus river in what is today Tajikistan but was in the 1870s in the Emirate of Bokhara, which was in the process of being swallowed up by the Russian Empire.

These treasures are truly Ottoman – forged in the heart of a cultural melting pot comprising Asiatic, Turkish and Russian traditions. I myself am forged in a similar crucible of mixed culture – hailing from northern Greece on my Mother’s side and Lithuanian on my Father’s. In this ‘Ottoman Treasures’ editorial, I am proud to showcase a mixture of beautiful traditional costume, ancient jewellery and ethnic textiles which make up my own heritage. They are the background for Ruby Slipper’s collaboration with Oxus jewels, a selection of fine modern jewellery inspired by the original lost treasure. Having learned about the provenance of the contemporary Oxus treasures, and having viewed the beautiful ‘La Vie en Rose‘ collection – I saw a way to present a genuinely beautiful offering with the ethnic textiles and costumes that are so close to my heart.

How interesting, too, that this collaboration – which celebrates a joyful collision of culture and time – comes at a moment when the European project seems set to begin a domino topple. Friday’s Brexit announcement in real time felt like a particularly bad episode of House of Cards, replete with the unseating of a PM. Europe and its various nations have come together and torn themselves apart so many times – and not just in relation to their borders and business treaties. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists have worked together as trading partners, geographic neighbours and literal neighbours for generations. Peaceably. They’ve also spent swathes of time being subject to violent nationalism which has ended in redefined borders, wars and genocide.

At the moment, Europe looks bleak. It seems like the E.U. breakup is inevitable, and that the refugee crisis is being used as a tool to divide nations and cultures. Nationalism is on the rise, and with world leaders like Trump, Turnbull, Farage or Boris Johnson likely to lead us on a merry dance over the next hellish decade it’s easy to think that we’re all intractably separated from eachother. That culture, class, gender, age and religion always mean opposition. And whilst that may be true – it’s equally true to say that cultures and religions have been able to live in tolerance and respect of one another at other points in history.

So have (some) faith this weekend when you approach the polling booth, dear readers. We live in a country where many people from many traditions live side by side, mixing together to create families of great cultural diversity – like my own. Borders of nationality melt away as babies appear. We more than any other nation have the chance to create a society based on our one similarity – that is, a treasure of difference. 

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Location: Thornbury, Melbourne.

Featured: The Oxus jewellery ‘La Vie en Rose’ collection. Rose-gold cased solid 925 silver handset with Swarovski crystals. Textiles and costumes from the personal collection of the Gabrie Gertsakis family.

Photographer: Breeana Dunbar

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