The wearing of jewellery with Bulgarian folk costume was the most important indicator of the wearer’s wealth and social status, this jewellery forming part of the bride’s dowry. Many of the styles of jewellery still being worn in the early 20th century can be traced back to ancient origins. Necklaces were made of small coins or shells, and metal jewellery made by casting, forging, and filigree wire, and decorated with enamel, small pieces of coloured glass and precious stones.
Goldsmiths were known to have produced filigree work in Thracian times and casting and embossing can be traced back to as early as the 5th century BC. By the 5th century AD the Slavs were masters of filigree in silver and copper wire. Necklaces and headbands made of coins, and the wearing of over ear pendants (nadushniks, or narpali in the Vidin area) and forehead decorations (prochelnik) by brides can be dated back to this period. It is known that the Proto-Bulgars wore leather belts decorated with pieces of bronze, silver or gold, and that they used quartz and enamel for decoration.
The brides trousseaux also could include hair pins, made of filigree which were used for fixing the married woman’s headscarf on her head, a curved or flat round plate (tepeluk) worn on the crown of her head, a decorative chain (podbradbik) worn under the chin and used to attach the headdress to the head, and metal pendants (kosichnitsi and ubrusi) which hung on back of hair, like a crown, and were made of numerous old coins tightly interwoven with sea shells, beds, coloured braid, gold threads. She also had silver or gold bracelets for each arm, rings, pendants, earrings, belt buckles. Every region had its own specialities, in south west Bulgaria dress pins (kitka) formed part of the dowry, in Gabrovo and Turnovo it would have included a tiara (sokai), and in Provadiya district a metal wreath, and in Kotel a necklace (halka).
Trade in jewellery made by goldsmiths was recorded from the middle ages, and coppersmiths were known to exist since the 15th century. From the 16th century in north west Bulgarian belts made of interlocking metal plates joined without being strung on leather strap were worn, and in the 19th century leather belts studded with metal platelet, or small metal studs were widely found.
Styles of jewellery during the five centuries of Ottoman rule between 1396 to 1878 showed oriental influences. From the mid 18th century, in the National Revival period, craft workshops were set up in the new urban centres for the production of jewellery. The main techniques used in this period were casting, embossing, filigree and enamelling.
Furnaces with leather bellows were used to melt gold, silver and other metals in small iron pots, and these were cast in moulds made of bronze, silver or clay. Belt buckles (pafka, pafti) worn by brides were made of cast or wrought gold or silver and could be oblong, round or palmetto shaped and were occasional decorated with mother of pearl.
The wearing of filigree jewellery peaked in the mid 19th century. Necklaces, made of twisted wire, called gerdan (the name has Turkish origins and is also used for necklaces made of tiny coloured beads in Romania) were very popular in the 18th and the early 19th century. These necklaces came in two main variants, those which fitted closely around the neck, and those which had a row of pendants, chains or freely linked platelets, hanging from them, which could be decorated with enamel.