Bursa’s crescents, stars decorate mosques across the world

Bursa’s crescents, stars decorate mosques across the world

BURSA - Anadolu Agency
Bursa’s crescents, stars decorate mosques across the world

This photo shows the alems in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Mosque. They are essential decorations of Islamic architecture. Hürriyet photo

Alems, the crescents and the stars on top of the minarets in mosques, do not turn black thanks to a special mix discovered by the artisan Ayhan Savut, who has been dealing with this business for long years in the northwestern province of Bursa. These alems are also sent to various countries abroad to adorn the tops of the domes and minarets. 

Savut said he produced the alems, which are essential decorations of Islamic architecture, by processing silver plates in a three-storey mansion where he was born and grew up. 

He said that his grandfather was an apprentice of an alem and silver artisan and took his mastership in Ulu Mosque in 1889. “My father did the same business and I am also doing it,” he said. “My father was working as an executive assistant in the district governor’s office and left his job at the age of 30 to get involved in this alem business. I have been getting involved in it for 50 years, too.”

Savut said that the art of the alem was seeing hard days and artisans had difficulties finding apprentices and qualified workers. “When we get old and sick, we will have to close this workshop. But we will try to make this business survive for as long as we are in good health. There only 14 artisans who are producing alems in Turkey. Thanks to a mixture of mine, these alems do not turn black and have been sparkling formany years. Producing an alem is both hard and expensive. Outsiders are working, and leave when their work is done. I can’t keep a worker for a long time. I am struggling due to my love for this art,” he said. 


The making of alems, the crescents and the stars on top
of the minarets in mosques, is a centuries old craft that
endures thanks to craftsmen such Ayhan Savut.
AA photo

Savut said that he was sending his alems to many countries. Noting that he had produced the alems of the mosque, which the Saudi Arabian king built in 1979 in Riyadh, Savut said, “I am sending alems to the Netherlands, Germany, U.S., some African countries as well as Turkish provinces of Hakkari, Adana and Diyarbakir.” 

Silver alems more enduring

He added that alems were more enduring if they were made of silver, and the material did not decay even if it was kept underground for 1,000 years. 

Savut said that it was easy to process silver, and continued: “Some historic mosques bring their alems to me for maintenance. I receive 550-year-old alems. Our ancestors made those alems using silver. 

“The price for alem changes between 100 and 1,000 Turkish Liras. To produce an alem, I first give shape to a silver plate with a knife and then boil it. The next step is to process it in lathe. Then I give its design and polish it. After cleaning it, I apply my special mixture on it. In this way, the alem does not turn black. When it dries up, it can decorate a dome.” 

Savut also noted that they received many demands particularly in the summer months and he was working hard.