The archaeological research done intensively in the territory of Khorezm in the middle of the twentieth century opened many famous monuments of ancient and early medieval jewellery art to the world. An amulet made of ivory in the form of a small human bust was found in the city of Topraq-Kala. Pedants in the form of male figures served as a protection. Ninth — twelfth century specimens include large beads and pendants with turquoise glaze, and bone badges with tracery. A bone carved triangular pendant connected with the idea of fertility was also found, which was widely used as a prototype in the nineteen and twentieth centuries.
With developing of glass making came the possibility of making bracelets, rings, and transparent and pastel, smooth and ornamented beads. The master glass-blowers did not, of course, make only jewellery, but also dishes, cups, jugs, and other items from clear, green, and dark-blue glass.
The arts of jewellery reached a high level in Khiva in the period of the late Middle Ages. According to the source in the mid-eighteenth century, «much gold, and silver, and precious stones «were taken from Khiva to Russia. In the 1830s-40s, «the masters of golden and silver trade» organized themselves. There were twelve jewelers of golden in the list of craftsmen of Khiva for 1860.
Owing to the isolation of Khiva, the most ancient forms of decoration were preserved here until the beginning of the twentieth century. These-included a number of head ornaments — tak'ya-tuzi, osma-tuzi, kushine, bu-tun tirnoq, yarim-tirnoq, and key and massive cast bracelets.
The Khivan jewelers used gold, ruby, beryl and pearl in the items of nobility and for the middle-class they used gilded silver, turquoise, and carnelian. They used the techniques of stamping, stone mounting, and especially filigree. They created an abundance of pedant’s chains, set stone pieces, and stamped pieces. Their favourite motifs included the pomegranate with grains in the form of hemisphere inlaid with turquoise, the apple blossom, and a steep spiral curl (aylatima).
One of the original jewellery items of Khiva is a head ornament the so-called taj duzi, presenting a combination, which consists of four almond, figures in two rows. They are decorated with mountings of colored glasses framed in a row of turquoise, and filigree. The edges of the ornament are framed with pedants.
One Khiva head ornament jigha, was widely spread to other regions of Central Asia. The head ornament bosh-tuzi, was preserved only in Khorezm. It has an ancient history, going back to the cult mythological notion of a Goddess-mother which «in its evolution...merged with the motive of the tree of life».
The earrings of Khorezm in most cases are circular and long, abundantly decorated with turquoise and corals. The bracelets, as a rule, were in pairs, massive (up to 300g each); the rings are decorated with stones or simple with silver. The jewelers of Khorezm used silver gilding in bracelets and rings.
In the twentieth century jewellery fashions changed, tending toward simpler forms. The basic material was still silver. At the same time Khiva jewelers used brass with turquoise, small beads, and colored glass. Famous Khiva jewelers of the twentieth century were A. Babajanov, M. Seitov, and K. Zerger. These and other jewelers work to revive the trade, which has not flourished in this century.
Another application of this art has been the handles of side arms and knives. As these items have become largely decorative in function, they have taken on more ornament. Daggers and knives with curved handles, some of ivory, are often adorned with stamped and engraved precious metal. Today the handles are made of plastic, metal, and mother-of-pearl. The elegant engraving of the handle and softly engraved ornament on the steel blade, distinguished the knives of Khiva master A. Madraim.
The engraved gilded silver cups represented artistic metal of early medieval Khorezm from the Hermitage collection with a picture of the duel of two knights, reclining princess, and a rider on the horseback. The skilful mastery of technical processing and skilful arrangement of the scenes characterize them.
These twelve cups testify to the quality of metalworking in the early medieval period.
There was no active metalworking in Khorezm from the eighth century until the seventeenth. One can assume that if such work was carried on, it followed the general course of artistic style of contiguous regions.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Khiva became one of the leading centers of engraving of Central Asia. During 1864-1865, thirty-eight coppersmiths worked in a co-operative shop. The masters made cooper and silver vessels and utensils, with unique elegance: tun (a big jug for water), tuncha (a vessel for boiling water), trays, pails, and other items. They made washing sets consisting of a small circular wash-basin (selobcha) or engraved basin with splendid curve for pouring water out, and a jug (kumghan) with a delicate neck. The simplicity and economy of design in these sets is typical of Khorezm style.
The Khorezm School of engraving is unique for its copper snuff-boxes (nasshisha). The favourite technique of the Khiva engravers was deep engraving (kandakor). The peculiarity of the Khiva technique is a flat background without finishing or zigzag strokes (chekma). They did not color the background. They used only black and red varnish. The plant motifs, among which the most favorite patterns are ay-lanma islim and medallion turunj, prevail in the ornament.
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century engraving style also changed in Khiva. The masters brought it closer to the Bukhara style — many of them had studied there. The famous coppersmith master of the nineteenth century was usto Abdullo. It also worth looking at the Match-anov family: Muhamad Pano was engraver to the khan's gunsmith; his son, Khudaybergan, was an engraver, musician, calligrapher, stamp cuter, and the first watchmaker in Khiva. Many engravers were also specialists in carving stamps, like usto Matpano, his son Khuday-bergen Matpanov, and usto Natyakub Janbek-ov. At the end of 1920s traditional vessels and utensils: choidish, oftoba, and trays were being produced. In this the forms of items became simple and the lines of silhouette became smoother. Kh. Saidov and M. Janbe-kov became known for their work.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the traditional Khiva engraving revived. Many copper shops, and engraving shops selling souvenir items were opened. Under the supervision of masters Khiva B.Yakubov and M. Atajanov students were taught the traditional methods and habits of work. In 1980-1990 J. Masharipov and Babajanov are continuing the traditions of the Khiva School. Their products include lagans, jugs, choydishes, kumghans, candlesticks and so on. The use traditional ornamental motifs — yakka tanob, kusha tanob, apple blossom, sherozi gul, kirrnak, four leaves, madohil — in the decoration of items. The geometrical ornaments with turunj, zanjira, octagon and zoomorphic ornament, consisting of motives like snake trace, male sheep horn, and others, are used.
In 1990s, in connection with the revival of national traditions and growing international tourism in Uzbekistan, the engraving trade is undergoing a revival.
The Khiva School of woodcarving is renowned in the Central Asian region. The vivid proof of it is the ensemble of pillars of the magnificent mosque of Khiva, which has twenty- four unique patterns of the carved wood. The most ancient pillars of this ensemble go back to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Their particular features are deep carving with oblique cuts without any background, but in some pillars one can notice that the masters use cuts in some of the background. Plant and geometric motifs prevailed in the decor.
Like the other artistic trades of Khiva, wood curving declined in the period of the Mongol invasion, and revived only at the of the thirteenth century. The way the masters appealed to the traditions of Mongol period can be seen from the Khiva pillars of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They preserved a general structure of order, using a number of wide and narrow belts in a geometrical network, using deep cuts to obtain rich color and shade effects. But, in general the flatter ornamental style prevailed in the Temurid period; utilizing geometrical stylized plant and epigraphic motives. One style combined girih (splendid medallions) with islimi (webbed plant shoots).
Beginning in the fourteenth century, researchers differentiate two main techniques - ornamental curve with rich plastic relief work and geometrical pattern based on the separate cut elements.
In the nineteenth century Khiva exceeds all other cities as the home of masters of the woodcarving art. The proof of it is another ensemble of avian pillars in the palace of Alikul-Khan Tashnauli (1830 - 1833). The pillars two- three foreshortened patterned relieves of splendid stylized plant ornament.
In public buildings the various pillars in the palaces, mosques, and madrasas and the carved doors combined with the beauty of sparkling tiles, but in private houses the carved details served as the artistic center of the whole dwelling complex. The carved doors were ornamented splendidly with complex patterns done in two foreshortened flat relief cuts. Curving patterns fully cover the door with a splendid plant pattern. The masters combined skillfully introduced colors. One of the famous door and pillar carvers of the mid-nineteenth century was Palvan Abdusattarov.
The pillars of the Khiva aivans were unique. They were amazingly well proportioned in form and beautifully with their ornamental curves. Their patterns containing strips of various widths girdled the trunk, echoing minarets of Khiva. The pillars very often rested on the curved base made of light marble.
Inside, cupboards for china, chests, dressers, churns, oil-presses, horse's collars, dishes and other items were made of wood. Simple carving often ornamented the household items.
Today Khiva remains a world center of woodcarving, preserving it as one of the basic types of architectural and ornamental decoration. One of the bright representatives of the Khiva School of carving was Ata Palvanov, the son Palvan Abdusattarov, who was his teacher in carpentry and carving. Today Ata Palvanov passes on the tradition of his craft to students like Sapo Baibekov. Palvanov's masterpieces — carved doors and pillars — are preserved in the State Museum of Art the Academy of Art of Uzbekistan, and the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Tashkent.
In the early medieval period the artistic weaving had reached a high level in Khorezm. The fragments of patterned brocade from the Mizdakkhana necropolis with pearl motifs, plant-tangles, birds, and ornamental borders and yellow silk fabric with stylized plant ornamentation from Yakka-parsan bear witness to this.
Cotton fabrics produced in Khorezm in the seventeenth century drew special note from Russian travelers: «They make silk and unbleached calico and zendeni, simple, but not bewitching.» Some fabrics were dyed in a local color and some were woven in striped patterns.
Khivans continued producing silk, semi silk, and cotton in one-colored and striped fabrics. The red silk was considered to be the smartest among the silk fabrics. Two or three colors were harmonically combined in the striped patterns. For instance, crimson, black and white or green, light blue, sky blue cloths are extant. Owing to the Fineness of the color stripes, they appeared to blend, creating in most cases a dark color.
Weaving has long been an important industry in Khiva. Many of the cotton and silk fabrics, for instance, a striped fabric called alo-cha was popular not only with Uzbeks and Karakalpaks, but also among all Turkmen tribes around the Amudarya. The Khivan alo-cha became thick when glossed and it substituted for the expensive silk and semi silk fabrics like adras (semi silk handmade patterned fabric).
Silk production was also common; moreover, while mainly women took part in producing cotton fabrics, the silk weaving was a trade for men only. Khiva has been the only silk fabric producer in Khorezm throughout the twentieth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century several types of silk fabrics were produced in Khiva: striped, one-colored red, one-color white and yellow, and the multi-colored silk of khan-atlas type (padshai). Many masters could produce the multi-colour silk. The one-color red fabrics were of two types: closed lusterless silk of dark-red color (turme) and soft glittering cloth of a light color (madali) was mainly taken to the regions inhabited by Turkmens. The colored madali was used as belts and kerchiefs.
In this century in Khorezm silk-producing shops appeared. They produced linen, smooth coloured fabrics. Among the most famous Khiva masters working in the field of artistic weaving are N. Yusupov, A. Allaberganov, B. Ata-janov, A. Abdurakhmanov, and A. Iskanderov.
Turkmen and Karakalpaks in Khorezm were engaged in carpet making. They also created original works of embroidery, decorating women's clothes — headwear, capes and dressing gowns. The familiar circle of motifs prevailed in the pattern of the embroidery.
Starting in the mid-1950s the search for the new forms of Uzbek carpet began. The Khorezm artists worked widely in carpet making for the first time. Having mastered the technology by the help of Turkmen carpet-making women, the Khiva masters did not confine themselves to reproducing the Turkmen patterns. They went on to create the first Khorezm styles, building on the broad nineteenth century revival of arts in Khorezm.
The printed cloth trade was also live in Khiva. The Khorezm printed cloth of the nineteenth century, with its violet-gray color and small design, differed from the printed cloth of other centers of Uzbekistan — Khanka, Chit-garon, Abduvais, Chimbay. Many masters worked in the other cities — fifty in Chitgaron and about the same number in Abduvais. Usto Kurbanbay, usto Aniyaz, and usto Masharif were famous among them. Two-color and multicolored printed clothes were made, featuring green and yellow colors in addition to the basic red, black, and white. It is worth noting that the red and violet coloured clothe were used for printing, which muffled the color of the finished product. Familiar motifs, for instance, the water melon-seed pattern, were used on the printed fabric. But by the mid of the twentieth century the artistic traditions of the Khiva printed cloth were lost owing to a variety of reasons. At present in the work of the masters of printed cloth are trying to revive this trade.
Embroidery as a type of the folk art is not typical for Khorezm. The beauty of the Khorezm costume is exclusively defined by the quality and artistic peculiarity of the fabric itself. Probably the most widespread type of embroidery is colored braid, which decorates.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, military operations ceased and political stability came to the Khiva khanate. The madrasah became more active and the interest in the manuscript books and their arrangement increased again. The court library under Mukhammad Ra-him I, and especially under Mukhammad II, actively worked on books. There, several books were artistically arranged: Anthology of the Khiva poets, the works of the East Navoi, Saadi, Khafiz, Omar Khaiyam, and Babur.
At the close of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the Khiva manuscript book possessed its own unique architectonics: harmonic correlation of the text parts and margins; splendid, shapeliness and calligraphic cleanness of the writing with subtle understanding of the compositional unity in the arrangement of the pages.
Characteristic for traditional manuscript books of that region, the headpieces were distinguished by the specific composition in the shape of dome scallops (festoon) decorated by the big plant pattern (islimi). The color gamut included blue-green-violet shades. In arranging the text they sometimes used calligraphic figures in the form of symbolic-allegoric motifs — fish, birds, snakes, vessels, household items. The Khiva library at the end of the nineteenth century had achieved a high artistic level.
The artistic culture of Khorezm owes its originality, in part, to its isolation. Throughout the military and political history of the Central Asian region, Khorezm preserved its cultural independence and isolation, even though it was member of this or that empire, union, or monarchy. This historic isolation is reflected in the style of the fine and applied arts of the country. It can be seen in the dialect of the artistic language, which is used in all the artistic media. At the same time Khorezm and were always closely connected with the fortunes of the other regions of Central Asia and Uzbekistan. In the earliest periods of the history of the culture of Khorezm it was included in the orbit of interrelation with the traditions of the other ancient cultures of Asia, of the ancient Egypt and the Akhemenid Iran. And in the ancient period there was a creative symbiosis with the heritages of Hellenistic, Indo-Buddha and Sasanid Arts. But the influence of foreign cultures was less in Khorezm than the other regions of Central Asia — such as Bak-tria, Parthia and Soghd.
Another ethno-cultural factor in the formation of Khorezm art was its historic connection with the artistic traditions of nomadic tribes.
After adopting Islam and being included in the Arab Caliphate, the people of Central Asia moulded their art to Muslim aesthetic principle. Beginning in the ninth century, the branches of applied arts: like ceramics, engraving, stamping, jewellery, weaving, woodcarving and stone cutting achieved wonderful success. As for the style in applied arts, it was in the tradition Muslim aesthetics, based on abstracted non-representational designs. From that time on, the town's life began to advance, and by the tenth — twelfth centuries the economy developed quickly and the spiritual culture of Khorezm flowered. The growth of cities and correspondingly the handicraft and trading circles, the strengthening of relations with neighboring countries, and the high culture and traditions of the previous periods contributed to the unbelievable rise in applied arts. Khiva's long medieval period was an extremely fruitful one in terms of lasting artistic production.
In the early modern period Khiva developed shop organizations in its artistic specialties, and artists were trained whose names are well known to us today. Khiva cultivated its ancient traditions, bringing them into the present century through an unbroken tradition of artistic excellence.
In the twentieth century the new types art — easel painting, sculpture, and theatre-related art appeared in Khorezm. However the traditional forms of applied art were preserved. The local artists demonstrated their skill and talent in the new context of increased marketability.
Today the applied arts of Khorezm, with Khiva at its heart, enriching the national culture of independent Uzbekistan, epitomizing its respect for ancient tradition, its wise selection of innovation, and its skilful handling of elements old and new.