"I am a fourth-generation silversmith. My father passed to me his wisdom and his skill. From him, I learned to use the finest silver and to respect my client—to weigh everything in their favor. This I do with great love."
Tsolak Koshtoyan is a fourth-generation silversmith in Gyumri, Armenia. He uses 120-year-old tools and molds inherited from his grandfather to make Alexandrapol-era jewelry, including bracelets, belts, rings, and earrings. Each pattern has a name, like "parsley," "cross," or "bird." He also makes silver and gold-plated mushurbas, traditional goblets that make sounds while a person drinks from it.
"This craft tradition comes from our grandfathers," Tsolak says. "It has been transferred from my grandfather's father Gabriel to Aghasi Koshtoyan, then to Artashes Koshtoyan, and now to me. In other words, I am the fourth-generation representative of this craft. I am a lecturer in the Gyumri Pedagogical Institute, Department of Fine Arts. I do my best to transfer my skills and experience to my students, so that craft traditions in Gyumri are preserved and do not disappear. No matter what kind of education they will receive later, what specialists they will become, learning a craft is important.
"Art has always attracted me. I have worked in various places but have always returned to craft with great passion. I have often done it just for pleasure. I greatly enjoy working silver; it is a unique metal. I make bracelets, necklaces, belts, and the famous Gyumri klklan (a special goblet that produces a gurgling sound), which compromises about forty parts. The forty pieces make up the ornaments, while the handle only is made of ten to fifteen detailed pieces. Sometimes people ask how many days it takes me to make a klklan, and my answer is at least twenty days.
"I am sometimes asked, 'what is the secret of your craft? What are the secrets that you do not share?' And I say that there is no secret. I just learned from my father, who said that there are three important principles: do your best not to deceive your client, they should be able to take the order on the day agreed beforehand, always use silver of higher fineness, and, when weighing the product before giving it to the client, weigh it in favor of a client.
"As long as I breathe, I should work, And the most important thing is that whatever I do, I do with great love."