“Clinking coin” … according to V.I. Dal’ so people in Russia used to call the true money, silver coins which combined the guarantee of the state currency unit and value of noble metal, symbol of economic prosperity. Since times immemorial in traditional culture coins had specific informative function. In many societies they symbolized stable well-being, secure fortune, and wish to have many children. Coins were put under the base of house in process of construction, they were offered to sacred place, left near healing spring, placed in tomb. As a symbol of good wishes they were put in chest with bridal dowry and ritual bread.
Every coin included in ethnographic object, in ornamentation of arms, costume and its accessories, in cult attributes and amulets combines its original qualities determined by presence of noble or colored metal and its right of participation in exchange and symbolic qualities related to the semantics of metal in question, regular geometric shape, inscriptions and images in culture of particular people.
Being a creation of excellence, coin combines the beauty of metal, chased miniature work and elegance of inscriptions. Coins of different value could be used to form compositions in ornamentation of costume and thanks to their one could make tender jingle at movement. In the middle 19th century coins as elements of adornment were in so great demand, that plants of Russia, Germany and some other European countries started to produce their decorative replicas. In adornment of ethnographic objects the Nuremberg tokens for count and gambling were frequently used like the true coins.
Among the Russian Cossacks and small-holders, Ukrainians, Tartars and the Slavs of the southeastern Europe and many peoples of Volga, Caucasus and Siberia one coin, several coins or a complete set formed part of woman festive costume. Coins were especially popular in bridal attire. They served for making earrings and bracelets. They were included in headdresses, necklaces and other jewelry. Among the people of Volga rows of coins fastened in scale-like way covered bride's breast, making a layer of symbolic protection. Among the peoples of Russia from the period before Peter the Great to the Soviet times various coins (Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German, Turkish, Iranian and Chinese) which decorated separately or all together woman wedding costume symbolized they worth of bride and her family, legitimacy and prestige of new marriage, wishes of firm marriage ties hand at the same served as body amulet.
The most frequent context of coins' use in traditional culture is that of woman costumes. Coins were sewn on different parts of costumes. They formed part of portable adornments. The RME collection has about 1500 objects of this type.
For the first time the exhibition demonstrates the specific popularity of "clinking coin", aesthetic forms of this commonly recognized symbol of wealth and prosperity in different contexts of traditional cultures of the Eurasian peoples in 19-20th century. Presence of coins from different countries expressed cognitive openness immanent to Russians from the remotest times. Interest in foreign countries, in their achievements and symbols coexisted with desire to understand their cultural traditions. Rare coins of high numismatic, historical and cultural value remained among those once widespread among common people and included in various objects.
Parts of costume and adornments in composition of which coins were included acquired various semantic functions: the social ones - they mark family high financial position; affiliation to high-prestige social or particular age-and-gender group (girls, young married women) as well as magic functions. They served as amulets, expressed the wishes of wealth, numerous children, and strength of marriage ties.
In costume ornamentation coins not unfrequently were set side by side with the kauri shells especially among the peoples of Volga and Siberia. It's known that just few centuries ago among many peoples of the world including those of the above mentioned regions of Russia kauri shells could still have function of money at exchange. Combination of coins and kauri shells emphasized the worth of woman, strengthened both her social status and her magic protection.
Apart of informative metaphors and protective function, the brilliance of coins, their form of regular sphere and original compositions made of them enriched the costume aesthetics and helped to create the ethnic image of woman beauty.