Wondering what to take back home? Handmade Armenian gifts are an absolutely great choice if you’re someone who likes authentic and beautiful products at affordable prices. In this post, I’ll briefly guide you to where, what and how to get the most beautiful and unique Armenian gifts that are handmade. If you like this post, share your thoughts with me on Instagram or Twitter, with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Why the best handmade gifts aren’t sold at Vernissage?
Well, if you’ve ever read about Armenia, most probably you already know about a place that everyone will recommend for shopping – Vernissage – the famous flea market of Yerevan. I’ve also written about it earlier. Of course, it will always be one of the best places to buy souvenirs. That’s to say, yes, visit it, that’s absolutely worth it. But also note that in Vernissage it’s very hard to find something unique. Silver jewelry is made in the same style, all with a similar approach. Bags, table runners, dolls and other traditional ornaments are made of the same or similar fabric. Same goes for pottery and other handmade ceramic items – from coffee cups to salt containers. Back in the days artists were selling their works at Vernissage. And now many people you see there are just sellers, and not the artists or creators.
Don’t get me wrong, Vernissage is a fantastic place to visit and admire. But I’m here to give you helpful tips. And my tip is, if you want to find something really authentic and exceptional, keep reading, because Vernissage isn’t the place for it. Simply because you need to spend days searching for a truly unique item.
The rise of interest in local production
Since the end of 2020 we see a surge in interest in locally produced Armenian goods in Armenia. During the October 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 the Armenian National Assembly adopted a law to ban product import from Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan. Along with the ban there was a very strong social campaign of people vowing to never buy anything made in Turkey again. Many businesses promised stopping the usage of materials and machines of Turkish origin.
This resulted in a sudden rise of interest in the local production. You see, Armenia is a small country geographically and industrial processes go very slowly, and are limited in their scope and scale. But for common people it was surprising to discover Armenian brands producing high quality regular items: from laundry detergent to denim. The process was fueled up on Facebook with special groups and pages dedicated to National products.
A dedicated shopping center for handmade Armenian gifts
All this process became a trigger which turned into an action plan – opening a National Mall (Arm.: Ազգային մոլ, Azgayeen Mall) for locally sourced Armenian products. At the beginning of March 2021 the National Mall opened its doors to locals and travelers.
You’ll basically find anything here: from handmade crochet animals to macramé necklaces. And believe me, you’ll find more unique and exceptional models that can’t be found anywhere else. This is mostly because these newly emerging businesses and brands don’t have strong roots and aren’t grounded anywhere yet. These are artists and creators taking their first steps in business and whatever they offer is really special most of the time.
So my tip is: take time to visit the National Mall (26/8, Tbilisyan Highway, Yerevan) and see how different it is from Vernissage or anything else you’ve seen in Armenia. As of now, they also have two small branches in the Yerevan city center:
What else to buy if you want a really special gift?
Well, let me tell you, my advice and tips will be very subjective and won’t always make the best gift ideas. That’s because I myself often face the challenge of choosing an Armenian gift. That’s why I will briefly touch upon the best options and separate them into several categories.
Games and sports
For someone who is into sports and loves board games, there are two great options to choose a gift from: handmade chess or backgammon. There are endless options to pick from: with Armenia-related engravings, simple or luxurious hinges and highest quality accessories…
The price of backgammons differs from 35K to 70K AMD ($66-130 USD) depending on the level of complexity of work done on it. They are usually big in size, so if you are short of room, you can consider mini versions.
It’s pretty difficult to mention pricing for chess boards, as it really is something of a huge range. And that’s because when making chess woodworkers have greater options to work and show creativity on figures.
Both chess and backgammons are pretty much everywhere: from Vernissage to the underground Handmade Armenian Gifts shopping center under North Avenue.
Sweets and local flavors for foodies
Needless to say, buying sweets and other edible stuff with a longer shelf-life is so much easier. Everyone loves tasting local flavors, so this is a winning choice every time. Here are some pages of brands that make handmade chocolate:
Also, consider buying local coffee as a gift. For example, we have a very cool coffee shop in Yerevan, where they import green beans and roast them on the spot, in-house. I think that’s awesome! I wrote about this place, called Lumen, when I was thinking about why there is no Starbucks in Armenia. So, check out that link.
Spinning top – for everyone between 5-99
These spinning tops are handmade and hand-painted in Gyumri by talented young artists. This is a game that never gets old and you never get old for playing it! Perfect for all ages above 5. These are affordable, starting from 2500AMD ($5), don’t need much space and come in beautiful gift boxes. Here’s the initiative’s Facebook page if you’d like to get one, or maybe more. After all, this is a traditional gift that many Armenians remember from their childhood.
Some other ideas on board:
If you still haven’t gotten inspired to choose a handmade gift, check my other dedicated post on where to buy souvenirs. All of them have handmade options, so you’ll for sure find something you’ll be really proud of. And before you leave, here’s another post on what else you should buy in Armenia (not handmade!).
My summary on handmade Armenian gifts:
Armenians are a hard-working and creative nation. That’s exactly why there can still be hundreds of undiscovered handmade brands and awesome products. Be attentive, be curious, do your little research and you’ll find the most exceptional pieces as really unique gifts. I really hope this post will help you in this. And if it does, ping me on Instagram or Twitter, with #ArmeniaTravelTips. I’d love to learn about your extraordinary findings!
Featured image credits: @meginnie