Originally authored on May 26, 2016
As early as 1521 and in the aftermath of Spanish colonization, jewelry such as crucifixes were used as tools to replace talismans and amulets worn by the native Filipinos.
To the converted Filipinos, wearing these jewelries was not a declaration of their Christian faith but more so a manner to adorn themselves while still in adherence to the austerity restrictions imposed by the Spanish regime.
During that era, gemstones were scarce, with only the upper class having access to them. Nevertheless, gold was in abundance which prompted the goldsmiths an opportunity to hawk their wares by producing only religious jewels. Various techniques to come up with different looks and styles like filigree locally called kalado or lace-like design; as well as the art of changing the color of gold was crafted.
Around the mid-18th century, a lot of Filipinos began wearing crucifixes and scapulars along with the traditional Filipino jewelry, the tamborin necklace which imitated the rosary bead pattern. The earlier gold rosary beads were in filigree technique which used a spool or frame called tambour to guide needle-like instruments in the looping and twirling of fine thread-like wire, giving these beads their name “tamborin”.
Originally, the reliquary pendants or relicario had religious designs like monstrance and chalice, however, the early 19th century saw the evolution of patterns and designs into ornamental. Nature-inspired themes like flowers and leaves were largely used.
These beaded necklaces became heirloom jewelry and were traditionally divided among family members. While gold tamborins, then, were widely crafted and worn, the production of other materials like silver and brass were also made available for various options. Regrettably, only a few gold tamborins were left. Some have been melted and made into modern jewelry. Since these beads were also divided among the children, now it is common to see tamborin with lacking beads.
During American colonial period, local jewelry became more streamlined which eventually drove the traditional style such as filigree into the backseat as gemstones became the focal point.
Designers have revived and popularized the infusion of tamborin in the fashion world. Doyennes were seen jamming tamborins with smart outfits. In a challenge for creativity, relicario and beads were blended to precious stone to come up with a stylized tamborin without departing to its original genre.
As local fashion drew inspiration from its significance and with a renewed sense of pride, tamborin tells a story begging to be told. It is beyond glamor, a walk through history which leads to become the showcase of Filipino artistry and culture that defines us.
* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures