Discovering Persian Pride: An Exhibition of Antique Silvers

The following post was written by Sina Zare, assistant professor of information systems and business analytics (LMU’s College of Business Administration). This exhibition is on display in the library’s level 3 atrium throughout the fall 2023 semester.

In a quiet corner of my home, there exists a treasury of history and artistry that has been lovingly assembled over the years – my cherished Persian antique silver collection. This collection, a testament to the enduring beauty of Persian craftsmanship, reflects my deep appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Persia, an ancient empire that encompasses a multitude of countries, including Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

People often ask me why I chose to collect these particular items, and the answer lies in a combination of passion and connection to my roots. The story begins with a precious inheritance – a wine-serving set passed down to me from my grandmother. She had received this set from her parents when she married, nearly a century ago, around 1920. To honor this cherished heirloom, I acquired a showcase to display it. Little did I know that this act would set in motion a journey of discovery. As I delved deeper into the world of Persian silver artistry, I found myself unintentionally becoming a collector, driven by a desire to learn more about this captivating art form.

These antique silver pieces serve as a tangible link to my family’s past, forging a bridge that connects me to generations of artisans and storytellers who have contributed to the magnificent tapestry of Persian culture. It’s as if each item in my collection holds a whisper from history, sharing tales of love, laughter, and traditions passed down through the ages.

At the heart of my collection stands a magnificent wine-serving set from the Qajar dynasty. Its intricate engravings and regal presence make it the crowning jewel of my assembly. In the delicate engravings, I can almost hear the echoes of generations past, envisioning the set being used to serve wine during gatherings filled with warmth and camaraderie.

Next to the wine-serving set, you’ll find a tea-serving ensemble, with each piece adorned by captivating engravings depicting lively gatherings and dance scenes, carrying the weight of Persian poetry and history within its silver craftsmanship. In addition to these, I’ve curated a collection of rice serving plates and trays, boasting elegant designs that hearken back to an era when every meal was a canvas for the flourishing of artistry and tradition.

silver etched teapots

Among my treasures, one finds a collection of Dev, their silver surfaces etched with symbols believed to ward off malevolent forces. These Dev faces carry with them the wisdom of generations who believed in the power of protection and the sanctity of family bonds.

Yet, perhaps one of my most prized possessions is a candy container adorned with vibrant mother of pearl. It serves as a striking testament to the opulence of Persian royalty, evoking a sense of a bygone era when our culture was synonymous with grandeur and elegance.

silver etched bowl

The importance of these items to Persian culture cannot be overstated. They are not mere objects but vessels of tradition, artistry, and heritage. Persian craftsmanship has always been celebrated for its intricate details and aesthetic appeal, and these silver pieces epitomize the pinnacle of that craftsmanship.

In Persian culture, the act of serving tea holds a profound symbolism, representing hospitality and warmth. The trays and teacup holders, adorned with Bazm scenes (gatherings) and intricate floral patterns, reflect the deep connection Persians have with literature and art. The Dev faces, with their protective qualities, underscore the spiritual and superstitious aspects of our culture, emphasizing the significance of family ties and well-wishing.

Throughout the ages, these silver items have been more than mere decorations; they have been integral to Persian identity and tradition. They encapsulate the essence of a culture that has endured through history, continuously linking us to our roots and reminding us of the timeless beauty and resilience of Persian culture. In collecting these items, I am not only preserving our heritage but also celebrating the artistry and craftsmanship that have made Persian culture so captivating and enduring.