Armenian jewelers have been widely renowned in the Ottoman Empire. In his work “New Light on the Most Ancient East”, English archaeologist V. Gordon Childe described that the ancestors of the Armenians have been among the first to start processing metal.
With their efforts, the Armenian Highlands have become the heart of Iron Age activities. In addition to iron, the ancestors of Armenians mastered working with precious metals. In fact, the Highlands house a number of the world’s oldest metal foundries.
While traveling through the Ottoman Empire, Marco Polo also described the passion of Armenians for crafts:
“The following can be said of Turkmenia: the Turkmenian population is divided into three groups. The Turkomans are Muslims characterized by a very simple way of life and extremely crude speech. They live in the mountainous regions and raise cattle. Their horses and their outstanding mules are held in especially high regard. The other two groups, Armenians and Greeks, live in cities and forts. They make their living primarily from trade and as craftsmen. In addition to the carpets, unsurpassed and more splendrous in color than anywhere else in the world, silks in all colors are also produced there.”
During the reign of the Seljuks, Armenians played a primary role in the metallurgy of the Seljuk state, remarked M. K. Zualian. That’s not really surprising as the territory of Armenia was exceptionally rich in minerals containing gold, silver, and copper. According to Evliya Çelebi, a famous Turkish traveler of the 17th century, Armenian jewelers were regarded as some of the best in the world during the Ottoman rule. Apart from producing silver and gold jewelry, Armenian goldsmiths decorated weapons, armor, stirrups, as well as produced various liturgical vessels.
One of those greatly honored Armenian jewelers and goldsmiths was an Armenian imperial master jeweler Hovhannes Agha Düz. He was the one who crafted the below-presented beautiful gun for Sultan Mahmud I. Although not much of his biography has survived until today, his legacy has reached us through the sumptuous items he had created for the royalty of his time.
In addition to a more traditional jeweled sword and scabbard, the imposing gun served as a ceremonial object belonging to the Sultan Mahmud I. The act of extracting the treasures from the stock of a gun is a highly personal experience. The below video covers the variety of treasures of this gorgeous gun.
Jeweled gun of Sultan Mahmud I, dated 1732-1733