Thursday, May 19, 2011

Style Elements of Yemen Silver Jewelry

A Wedding Necklace for the Bride's Adornment

An assemblage of pieces of such jewelry as you see on the Yemen bride on the post of May 18, 2011 (see list of posts in left column).  The pieces are re-assembled by jewelry dealers from antique components collected from the village bazaars (suqs) in Yemen.  

The piece reflects the cultural fondness for the contrast between the cool sheen of silver and the warm glow of the organic coral beads.  The red coral beads are a rare find in Yemen nowadays.  The coral has become too expensive, and is often separated from the silver jewelry piece and sold by the gram at ten to twenty dollars per gram (28 grams=1ounce).

Apart from the rarity of the antique red coral, there is a characteristic of Yemen jewelry fabrication that is now another cultural artifact: the practice of decorating silver globe beads, amulets and end pieces with granulation.  Filigree is still practiced universally.  The photo below will illustrate:

Granulation and filigree are signature characteristics of 
jewelry made in certain regions of Yemen.

Filigree shows up in the hollow spherical beads spaced between the coral in the bottom row of beads and in the cylindrical hirz or amulet hanging below the plaque that divides the strands of beads.  You can see that in the spheres and cylinder that they have been built up in pieces and then the components soldered together.  The filigree is cut by hand while the sphere is a hemisphere and the cylinder is still in sections.  The flat oval pieces hanging from the hirz may be formed from wire that is curled into a pattern.  The small spheres that hang with the oval filigree look like sleigh bells, and they are fabricated for the same reason -- to make a pleasant sound as the wearer moves.  

The granules that decorate the plaque and the pieces that separate the coral beads in the upper four rows are formed in two ways: in some pieces they are dropped onto a base of silver while molten and form into tiny globular grains, or in the second method, very small beads called shot are soldered onto the base silver shape.  The art of dropping molten silver onto a silver base to allow them to meld is not used so much any more.  

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