Tuareg at Cargo

On first seeing Cargo’s display of Tuareg jewelry, customers are intrigued. With its use of beads and leather, the jewelry is clearly tribal. But the shapes are geometric and lines so clean they could be art deco. Tuareg jewelry seems to encompass influences from Moorish Spain to Morocco to Mali. What gives?

The Tuareg tribe’s distinctive style comes from its nomadic heritage. For centuries, the Tuaregs have wandered the Sahara Desert, trading salt, indigo fabric, camels, and agricultural goods, bringing them in contact with a variety of cultures. The Tuaregs are also one of the few matrilineal tribes. Despite being Islamic, it’s Tuareg men who wear veils, not women. Some people call Tuaregs the “Blue Men” because of their skin dyed from their indigo clothing

One of the most common shapes of Tuareg pendants is a cross. However, it’s not a religious cross—at least, not in the Christian sense. The Tuaregs recognize that you never know where you’ll die. The cross represents the earth’s four corners, so its wearer will have a compass in the afterworld.

Tuareg are master silversmiths, believing silver to be the prophet’s metal. (Some Tuareg women won’t wear gold at all, fearing it will bring them bad luck.) Tuaregs often incorporate exotic wood such as ebony into their intricately worked yet deceptively simple designs. Their silversmithing is so highly prized that Hermès has even hired tribal artisans to craft belt buckles for them. 

The Tuaregs are also known for their work with leather, and they fashion pouches for amulets to wear around the neck. The pouches are elaborately embossed and often adorned with fringe or tassels. Some necklaces feature multiple pouches. Some amulet pouches are metal and have constellations or verses from the Koran etched on them.

At Cargo, we carry new and vintage Tuareg designs, each loaded with history and culture—and, most of all, beauty.