Monday, March 18, 2013

Jingle Bells on Yemenite Women's Belts

Antique Yemen Large Silver Belt with Dozens of Large Bell Dangles

This antique belt from Yemen is made for a woman to add to her dowry, not typically shown as part of her wedding garment. However, the older Yemenite Jewish immigrant to Israel is shown in the illustration above wearing some of the customary wedding finery along with the married woman's fancy silver belt with carnelian jewels embedded in the buckle.

The belt from my collection that I am listing for sale has around a hundred tinkling bell dangles similar to those sported in the above illustration of the Yemenite woman's costume. The belt that is offered here for sale has much the same intricate design of links as you can see that each identical column of silver diamond shapes is linked securely to the next for the whole length of the belt, which is 29.5 in or 75 cm of links, not including the elaborate buckle parts. The links are still in perfect working order, as are the buckle and fastener. The bells show the wear and tear of the last 75 years, but there is no lack of bells, which are distributed generously along the length of the belt.

Now comes the mystery of the buckle on this traditional belt created for the Yemenite Jewish woman by a Yemenite Jewish silversmith, probably in the shops at Sana'a, the capital, where the Jewish housewives had a lively social community and wore costuming suitable to their status. 

For some reason this exquisitely designed and fabricated belt buckle with the same pattern that we see in many of the incredibly beautiful inlaid filigree and rosette designs of the Bawsani bracelets has acquired what I call a 'cultural accretion.' On top of one side of the beautiful Bawsani filigree and rosette buckle, we see a specially designed a cut out of glass pieces set in a plain plaque soldered over the original design. 

Why it should happen is a mystery, but there it is. I suppose that is what makes this belt truly ethnic jewelry; the variety of aesthetic standards is shown, because cultural objects are handmade to fit the taste of the owner, not uniformly manufactured for the masses to buy or not to buy. The belt remains very appealing in spite of the 'upscaling' that we can see. The modification is quite old and probably was worn for at least a generation or two before coming into my collection. 

This is one of the most mysterious pieces in my collection, because the final form cannot be explained by 'tradition.' Some writers attribute the addition of gemstones of any kind to their supposed healing or protective properties. This could explain the cultural addition to the original inlaid filigree buckle. The mysterious addition only adds to its authenticity.

Purchase Here.  

Belt length from left hand end to screw fastener on right hand end - 32.5 in (82.5 cm)
Belt band width at buckle fastener, not including bell dangles - 2 in (5 cm)
Belt width including dangles - 3.75 in (9.5 cm)
Belt buckle length when closed - 3 in (7.5 cm)

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