Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Yemen Dowry Necklace Restored

Restored to Beauty and Strength for Service to Another Bride

From the Past: Yemen Silver Filigree and Granulation Plaques with Amulets and Bawsani Filigree Drop Beads

Restoring an antique piece differs from merely restringing and certainly is very different from re-designing an old piece in a contemporary fashion.  In this piece I found that the three amulets and the large central plaque were still intact and together.  The end pieces matched, but I do not recall whether they were with the plaque and amulets.  The filigree drop beads and the silver metal spacer beads were collected from the same time and place.  They were all made in Yemen some time before the 1940s.  

Some of the coral was missing.  Enough was replaced to make this piece as much like the original as possible.  

This is a restored antique kirdan necklace commonly known as bridal dowry jewelry. The workmanship of the Jewish silversmith who created these pieces around 75 years ago is astounding. His tools were simple but the purpose was so high: the blessing of a marriage. He was inspired to create these matching pieces which held 5 strings of silver and coral beads. 

The small beads did not have to be so fine, as the original ones were probably not. But the first restorer of this piece some decades ago hung tiny dainty Bawsani type filigree drop beads, one on each of the middle strands, just to show the value of the necklace. 

Over the years the strings wore through, the piece fell apart again. Most of the coral was still with the silver pieces, so it was possible to restore the lazem/kirdan necklace after rummaging through my stray bead trays for my old Mediterranean coral pieces that we had collected over the years. 

You will note that the central plaque had six holes to divide the strands, but the end plaques had only five, though they are perfectly matched in design to the central plaque. Note also that the three amulets also match closely in design. At some point in the long past, some of the attachments on the amulets may have been replaced with a different shape than the original. All the metal pieces are old Yemeni pieces. The coral comes from the same source as the Yemen coral came from: the Mediterranean, possibly off the North African coast. 

In restoring the piece, I wanted to make it as secure as possible on the string I used, so it now hangs on nylon coated steel and should not fall apart for another hundred years at least. I randomly tested the coral I replaced by checking to see if it effervesced in vinegar or lemon juice. It reacted as coral is supposed to react by blowing tiny bubbles in the acidic juice. 

Coral is about 75 grams. 
Length of necklace = 24.5 in (62 cm)
Central Plaque = 1.25 in (3 cm) x 3 in (7.5 cm) including pendants

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