Saturday, April 5, 2014
Shaping and Decorating a Yemen Dowry Bracelet
The ancient practice of exchanging goods for a bride continued in Yemen and in many regions of Asia the practice persists. It is considered only fair that the family who gives up part of its own treasure should be compensated. It also teaches the groom to value his wife and daughters. In Yemen the goods that the bride wore on the wedding day and any goods given to her by her own family and her friends and her husband's family are hers to keep. She has control of her treasure throughout the marriage and would be allowed to take them with her in case she was divorced by her husband. Since divorce is so very rare, the more important part of the deal is that she has her silver insurance policy in case her husband is disabled or pre-deceases her.
The dowry is designed and fabricated by one shop of jewelers, from apprentice to master. The people who wanted contribute to the dowry brought their own silver Maria Theresa thalers -- then the standard cash currency -- and their pieces of silver jewelry to the maker of the dowry pieces. The Jewish silversmiths melted down the silver, designed the various beads, pendants, rings, headbands, veil ornaments, bracelets, anklets, toe rings, upper arm bracelets and other trinkets to dangle from the clothing of the bride. In the early 1900s the bride sat for the photograph at her wedding because she might be carrying a forty pound load of silver jewelry, each piece made with the skill of the Yemen Jewish silversmiths.
Each part of this exemplary bracelet is made entirely by hand with primitive hand forged iron tools, only about five of them. Pliers, drawers of wire, hammer, tongs, and a tool whose name I don't know.
The screw closure is an example of the perfect match-up required in this hinged bangle bracelet. To match grooves that would last almost a hundred years and still operate for the wearer -- all by hand with handmade tools -- is quite an accomplishment.
The hasp in the hinge at the back is now held together with a strong copper rod flattened at both ends. This may be a replacement at some point in the bracelet's history; the silver hasp may have become so worn that the bracelet did not hang together well. The copper rod appears never to have been coated with silver at any time. I doubt that this magnificent bracelet would have had a solid copper rod as the hasp at the time it was created.
The excellent balance of braided wire, crenellation along the edges, and the small touch of inlaid filigree on the closure brings this dowry bracelet to perfection. It is still very wearable and eminently collectible.
For more information on the bracelet visit my WEBSITE.