Artist Profiles


Ilya Kazakov


South and Central Asia




Jewelry, Woodwork

Medium of Work:

Kazakh silver jewelry, carved wooden and metal boxes

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Drawing inspiration from his rural Kazakh surroundings, silversmith Ilya Kazakov is reinventing a jewelry tradition that spans literally millennia to the Iron and Bronze Ages, when man first began experimenting with metal. Steeped in the imagery of prehistoric life, Kazakov’s broad range of accessories bring a modern sensibility to the iconography of ancient civilizations.

Silver was traditionally the preferred metal as its glitter and color were associated with the moon, and silver was thought to have cleansing and protective properties. Rings played a role of particular importance. Women would wear several rings as they were thought to protect the children they bathed and cleanse the food they prepared. Older women often wore massive rings for special occasions, including a ring worn on two fingers, which was often given to the mother of a groom by the mother of a bride. It symbolized the coming together of two families and new beginnings. And rings in the shape of birds’ beaks were given to men leaving for battle as a talisman to deliver them safely back home to the “nest” with the bird’s beak representing freedom, happiness and general welfare.

The foundation of modern Kazakhstan was built on the ruins of the Mongol empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. Traditionally a nomadic culture, like their neighbors the Kyrgyz, the Kazakhs have used metal as expressions of personal adornment, talismans against evil, and yurt decoration for generations. Symbols used in Kazakov’s jewelry may have their origins in ancient ways of life; however, his interpretation of them is distinctly modern.