Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chosen Ethnic Jewelry from Yemen

This pair of bridal dowry bracelets in the Mansouri style of Yemen was chosen from my own group of Yemen ethnic jewelry by a discriminating collector a few weeks ago:
This is a pair of old Yemen Mansouri style bracelets in typical silver alloy with tiny coral beads set in raised bezels.  Silver wire forms rosette petals arranged around a central group of silver granules forming a tiny floral design.  This is appliqued onto the metal background.  Beaded wire borders the top and bottom of the bracelets.  This Mansouri style fits with the rest of Yemeni jewelry by following the tradition of hinging the bracelet at one side of the diameter of the circular form and a hasp fastener on the opposite side.   The so-named Mansouri jewelry is distinct from the other traditional styles of Yemen jewelry such as the Sana’a Bawsani and the Hadhramaut jewelry from eastern Yemen.  Its chief difference is the content of the silver.  But it also lacks the cut-out patterns and spikes on the outside surface of the Hadhramaut bracelets and the delicate wire filigree and granulation that trace intricate motifs in the Bawsani style bracelets.  
These bracelets appear to be of the same kind of silver alloy that was used by Jewish silversmiths before the coin silver of the Maria Theresa thaler  became available, or they were made in a region where the thalers were not used for jewelry.  Some authorities claim that this style precedes the more sophisticated techniques and motifs of the Sana’a and Hadhramaut silversmiths.  Others say that it was made after the Jewish silversmiths left Yemen.  There appears to be very little information available on exactly who, where and when these were made.  We do know that they are old and fit into their own tradition, because enough pieces in this style survive in present collections.  In my own collection I have one other piece that is made from the same quality of silver and with similar motifs.  
These were probably made as bride wealth to be worn on the wedding day, because they were made as a pair, one for each wrist.  
Height: 3.4 cm; Inside diameter: 5.3 cm; weight of each bracelet: 90 grams.

Along with that pair of pieces from the bride wealth of a Yemen woman, this pair of more sophisticated bracelets from a different region of Yemen was also collected:
Antique signed bracelet by the Yemen Jewish silversmith and the signed bracelet's twin. Granulation and beaded wire form geometric motifs round the bracelet. The covering for the hasp is more delicate tracery with filigree wire and tiny granules. The signature is just on the inside of the fastener. If you cannot see it, request an enlargement of that part of the photo if you are considering a purchase. 
Such bracelets were created in the early 1900s by the Jewish silversmiths for the brides of Yemen.  As all the Jews departed for Israel in those early decades, they took the secrets of their fine silver filigree and granulation with them.  The bridal dowry bracelets were usually made in matched pairs one bracelet for each wrist of the bride.  If you could see a bride sitting at her wedding, first you would notice the load of jewelry around her neck and on her head which would have explained why she was sitting.  The next thing you would realize is that the pairs of bracelets on left and right wrist and along her arms, might have been needed for balance when she eventually stood up under the kilos of bride wealth that she was wearing.  
Published in Ornament Magazine Vol. 26, No. 4, 2003, p. 38. 
Inside diameter: 5.4 cm


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    1. Thank you for your comments. These are especially beautiful types of bracelets. I will be writing about more bracelets in my collection. I hope you will stop by for a visit from time to time.

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  2. Thank you for your kind comment, Salma.