Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yemeni All-silver Necklace

This is typical of the bridal jewelry worn as bride wealth in Southern Arabia from very early times. The components of this necklace were fabricated in the shops of the Jewish silversmiths of Yemen somewhere between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The beads are unremarkable, being simple coin silver beads made from melting the Maria Theresa thalers to make the ornaments that Yemeni women wore especially on their wedding day and at the time of the celebration of the birth of their children. 

They also wore some pieces of their jewelry at all times, since they did not have safes in which to store their wealth. As they needed some medium of exchange to buy food or clothing, they could simply remove a piece from the jewelry and trade it for the desired goods. Many Yemeni necklaces are somewhat out of balance, because a piece has been removed for that purpose. 

This necklace illustrates that practice. But there is an even more interesting story in the amulets. These are the most intricately worked items on a Yemeni necklace. They are prayer tubes that look like a mini scroll container. Prayers or blessings might be inserted in the amulet when it was fabricated, or the amulet itself was considered to have spiritual significance, even without the written prayers in it. 

This particular necklace has three amulets attached to the plaques (the large tabular beads) that guide the strands of beads to the end pieces. The end pieces receive special care in their fabrication. 

All the features on this necklace are fabricated in the Yemeni style: they are heavily decorated with silver grains (small drops of molten silver) or they are made with delicate wire filigree, or both methods are used to decorate the parts of the necklace. 

The chain and the fastener are handmade in Yemen, and are typical of that era and region.
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