The Art of the Tamborin


The Tamborin is a distinctive style of Filipino jewelry featuring intricate lace-like patterns and filigree designs using gold and silver. It has its roots in Hispano-Arabic influences that came to the Philippines from Spain via Mexico. Iberian designs were incorporated with indigenous styles. At the same time, the influence of Islamic jewelry arrived to the islands through West and South Asian traders came to Manila due to the booming Galleon Trade. By the 18th century, Philippine golden beads, usually made by Tamil and Sinhalese craftsmen, reflected an international Asian style. The massive influence of religion - particularly Christianity - was reflected in Filipino colonial jewelry. Gold bead necklaces were originally meant to function as prayer beads, or Rosarios (in Latin, a garland of roses), and were kept in their proper sequence. However, their religious function soon gave way to the ornamental.

The Filipino Art of the Tamborin

"Filipinos always appreciated the eclectic: the melange of beads of various styles, techniques and ages harkened back to the pre-Hispanic era. The segmentary nature of rosario necklaces allowed eccentricity and individual expression."

Above all, gold necklaces were liquid wealth, meant to be shortened or lengthened according to the owner’s financial circumstances. Rosarios could be easily divided among the children as part of an inheritance. The odd mixture of beads made the necklace appear antique and heirloom which only increased the jewelry’s value.
Soon rosarios became primarily ornamental jewelry called tamborins, no longer bothering to follow the correct number or sequence of the traditional prayer beads. By the 19th century, with the movement away from religious themes, tamborin pendants (called “relicarios”) displayed designs of flowers and leaves.
Rare antique and heirloom tamborins have survived, with several restored and repurposed with stones and pearls. Newer pieces that remain faithful to the laborious and intricate art of tamborin making are widely popular even today.