Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gilding Silver in Yemen and Turkmenia

It is time to talk about gilded jewelry from the 1900s specifically in Yemen and Turkmenia.  First to note is the fact that most jewelry at that time was made of silver by highly accomplished silversmiths with very basic tools and sometimes employing hazardous techniques in making the gold layer over the silver.  Such jewelry is termed vermeil or gold plated, gold washed or gilded.  It differs from a metal alloy wherein the gold and silver would be blended quite thoroughly in the liquid state.

Here is a good example of Turkoman silversmith work in a gilded tumar/bozbend; that is a mountain symbol (tumar) with a prayer tube (bozbend) at the bottom of the tumar of this very fine piece of antique workmanship.  

See more information on this piece at my website.

Since gold plate is what we moderns are most familiar with (we are ignoring gold tone which does not use gold), we will begin there.  Gold plated and gold filled are the same kind of jewelry, only that gold filled usually but not necessarily means that there is a thicker covering of gold than with gold plated jewelry.   When I first dealt in jewelry many years ago, gold plate actually had more gold on it than did the gold filled.   At present, silver is plated with a relatively thin gold layer with modern machines that do electro-plating.  It is usually done in a factory, but it can be done in a home workshop.  

This method was not available to the West Asian people in the early 1900s.  They employed heat from a fire, first to melt the metals they were using and then to apply the gold layer to the silver in a permanent covering.  The best methods and highest skill were found among the silversmiths of Turkmenia: the Turkoman settled regions of Central Asia.  First of all, by 1900, they were able to trade with Europe for genuine silver ingots, so they began the crafting of their silver jewelry with precious metal.   

When the ingots were melted, the silversmiths began the rather hazardous work of applying the gold in a process which produced vaporized toxic material.  I provide here a very over-simplified description of the process: 

The method of applying the gilding is quite interesting, and it lasts much longer in the Turkoman jewelry than it does on most jewelry of the Middle Eastern regions. After the silver has been hammered and smoothed to the perfect thickness, the pieces cut and inscribed, but before the gemstones are set, thin gold plates are heated red hot and mixed with mercury, the amalgam being placed in water. Then it is applied to the desired parts of the cleaned silver surface. The silver becomes amalgamated with the application of certain mineral powders, after which the gilding amalgam can be applied and then heated. As the piece heats from warm to hot, the silversmith uses cotton wool to rub the piece to evenly distribute the mineral. 

Below is a photograph of a kirdan or Yemen woman's bridal necklace worn at her wedding and on special occasions thereafter.  Most of the kirdans of the early 1900s and previous were not gilded, but this piece is.  The method common among Yemen jewelers possibly used an open crucible in the heating and melting process, because the gold amalgam layer is not as durable as the process used in Turkmenia.  With long wear and exposure to weather, the Yemen gilding will simply rub off  or discolor because of the chemicals used in its application.  If it has not worn away, a brisk buffing will bring the shine back. 

There are more photos, more information and more similar pieces at my website in this section.

Yemenite gilded silver plaque and prayer amulet with fertility symbols attached.  
See more information on this piece at my website.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Making and Marking Amulets in Yemen

Antique Yemen Amulets made in same pattern, signed by same maker

After my husband no longer traveled to Yemen, a trusted acquaintance would seek out special beads, matching bridal dowry bracelets and anklets, whole kirdan or bridal dowry necklaces and of course the signed bridal dowry amulets. My husband was interested in finding as many such pieces as possible and our Yemeni acquaintance, also a collector, was able to find a dealer who was able to translate a few of the signed pieces. The script used is an archaic South Arabian script and was not legible to most of the present Yemenis. 

Even though this exquisite pair of amulets was not translated, we can see that the signatures are the same. Our collector acquaintance was able to see that and tied the pieces together when he sent them to us many years ago now. We have left them tied together and wish to send them to a new collector as a pair. This is a rare find for a person who is still building a collection. I am in the process of downsizing my own to just the few items that my husband brought to me for my personal jewelry chest. 

The feature of this pair of amulets that adds to its rarity is that the large amulet opens to receive a prayer or blessing written and placed inside and worn on the wedding day and on other important occasions in the woman's life. The cap that is removable for placing or removing the prayer scroll has a tiny loop on it to make the task very easy. These pieces are in excellent condition. The smaller amulet, which is still large in comparison to most of the pieces in our collection, has loops from which once hung small round hollow silver beads, a traditional decoration for the amulets and beads of a lady's dowry. 

The small amulet has large loops through which the cord or chain would pass as it hung on the string of beads and amulets on the wedding day. The same style of loops on the large amulet were even larger and at some time later, they were cut down in a diagonal slice filed smooth and squeezed together to a smaller circumference. This was purposely done. A cord would not have worn the metal in a diagonal direction. Nor would both loops be worn so uniformly. 

These are spectacular chevron designs made by granulated silver meticulously placed in diagonal rows between beaded wire lines. The background is darkened and the Maria Teresa coin silver granules shine softly against the dark background. 

These amulets make a very special addition to a collection. 

Large amulet dimensions - 1.3 inch (34 mm) diameter x 4.2 inches (10.7 cm) length (not including loops)
Small amulet dimensions - 1 inch (25 mm) diameter x 3.2 inches (8 cm) length (no including loops)

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Maker's Mark is Historical Information

A few weeks ago, I sold a bridal dowry amulet or hirz from my collection.  It was signed by the maker, as so many of the finely made hirzes are.  The maker's  name was Ebrahem Saleh.  Here is a photo of that particular amulet.  The gallery did not store a photo of the signature, but this is the very amulet that Ebrahem Saleh signed after making it some time before the 1940's when all the silversmiths emigrated from Yemen to Israel.

Antique Yemen Silver Amulet Signed by Maker Ebraheem Saleh - in gallery of sold items

Just this week, I found another interesting Yemen silver hirz when I was rummaging through another box of such amulets from Yemen, which I consider to be important pieces of Judaica .  My website has a special section for the Yemen Jewish silversmith work, all made before they emigrated from Yemen to Israel in the 1940s.  This amulet, too, is made by someone named Saleh.  This one is signed by Yahia Saleh: 

Antique Yemen Amulet Signed by Maker Yahia Saleh from Fine Collection - listed for sale

If the silversmiths signed their names with the family name first, then there may not be a genetic relationship between the two men, but if they signed their names as English speakers would sign, with the family name last, then there probably was a family relationship.  Their designs are very similar, as you can see.  The horizontal beaded wire strips between rows of diamond shapes and florets with almost identical decorative ends and the same shape of bails or loops for hanging the amulets.  This would lead me to believe that they were working in the same shop in the Sana'a region of Yemen.  

What do you think?  Your comments are invited. 

See more antique silver jewelry HERE

Monday, August 19, 2013

Antique Silver Bedihi Beads from Yemen

The century old Mediterranean red coral beads are the natural accompaniment to the numerous silver Bedihi beads on this fine necklace from Yemen.  In the market place the same beads are called berry beads, especially the small ones.

Antique Rare Silver Bedihi Berry and Coral Beaded Necklace from Yemen 

Veronica Wainstein is the owner of arabiafelixjewels and an expert on Yemen jewelry.  From her I learned that  'The Bedihi family was one of the most famous of Yemeni Jewish jewellers in the last two centuries. Their exquisite granulation work, the berry beads and the dugag cylinder beads show the expertise of these jewellers. The main dugag beads are all hallmarked by the artist. All Yemeni  jewels  hallmarked are from before 1940.'

The detailed granulation in the beads that seem to be built drop by drop with a lot of open space showing even in the small beads.  This allows the beads to make a strong impact without being too heavy for comfort.  

The pendant shaped as a crown with the dangles is capped with a larger Bedihi bead and there are two more on the side strings of coral and Bedihi beads.  The crown shaped pendant is an ornament usually worn hanging from the headband or head covering; a pair of such ornaments hang on each side of the face.  

Coral beads, Bedihi beads and often the beautiful Bawsani beads hang by the pound on a bride wearing her dowry on her wedding day.  The wedding jewelry will probably also include some dugag beads that are usually signed by the maker.  They are large hollow globe beads that wear so beautifully and develop a fine patina.  See an example here: 

Antique Yemen Silver Bead Pendant Signed by Silversmith   

Necklaces, head covers, earrings, bracelets, armlets worn above the elbow, rings on all the fingers and even on her toes tax the brides in wealthy families with a heavy burden on her wedding day.  No wonder we always see her seated in the wedding pictures. 

Here is a detailed view of the necklace above: 

I invite you to visit the studio and see this and the other Judaica available there. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Judaica - the Material Objects and the Spiritual Meanings

The classification 'Judaica' refers to things related to the Judean culture from its establishment in ancient times up to the present.  Naturally the things of the material culture such as the menorah, the mezuzah and the kippah are easily recognized by those outside the Jewish religion.  These material objects also carry spiritual meaning as well as being art objects.  The mezuzah carried written prayers and blessings.  The menorah was a part of the ancient tabernacle that the prophet Moses set up.  It is still used in both Jewish synagogues and Christian churches.  The kippah is a head covering that is often beautifully decorated with geometric shapes in fancy needlework for school boys and brides, in particular.  It implies a dedication to a certain way of life.

In addition to these common modern objects, there exists among certain Jewish communities in diaspora beautiful traditional jewelry and clothing that are quite distinctive and are growing quite rare at present.  As an example in my own experience is this antique mezuzah, also called a hirz, q'tub or amulet.  They are always worn as a pendant either sewn to the clothing or strung on a cord or chain to be worn.  For example in the community of Jews in Yemen in the early 1900s, Jewish brides wore amulets such as this one:

Antique Yemen Yemenite Silver Signed Amulet Hirz Kutub Pendant

Here is a fuller explanation of some of my Yemen jewelry collection or the Yemenite Judaica at the site linked here:

 This amulet is decorated with dangles with small bell like beads attached. This amulet was once worn by at least one Yemeni bride as part of her dowry and then again at the birth of each of her children. It would have hung on a multi-strand kirdan, a bib or yoke strung with large silver hollow beads, amber or coral beads, and as many as six of small hirzes with one large amulet or hirz hanging from a matching plaque. 

Dowries are still a part of the marriage arrangement between the two families that are being joined through the union of bride and groom. The amulets contained the prayers or scriptures that symbolized the sanctity of the union. 

From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, such amulets were created from silver that was melted down either from Maria Teresa thalers or from jewelry that belonged to the previous generation. The prospective groom was expected to bring a hefty bit of silver to the bride. This was in turn melted and refashioned into silver beads and amulets, bracelets, hair ornaments, anklets and rings for Yemen brides to wear as their wedding finery. 

This custom also provided them a dowry, their store of silver to give them security, as their dowry was their own property. Silver in the form of beautiful jewelry also gave the woman status among her peers. She was not always the only woman in a household. And of course, the load of silver jewelry adorning her from the top of her head to the tip of her toes made her even more beautiful on her wedding day. Poorer brides simply rented the wedding finery from jewelers who kept wedding jewelry on hand. 

The bride would have worn this amulet as a blessing and a prayer for her health, safety and happiness. Since this is a relatively small amulet, it probably hung on a cord with other amulets, one being the large one that opened to insert the actual prayers.

Because the Yemen Jewish community emigrated to Israel in the early 1900s, there are no more such pieces being created in Yemen. 

Such rare items provide very special focal pieces for jewelry designers or are sold individually as I am offering this one. With organic beads such as amber, coral, horn, bone, wood and shells they fit in with ethnic designs very well. It is also spectacular when strung with lapis, turquoise or carnelian, obsidian and smaller silver bead separators. 

Such an amulet is very distinctive worn alone on this silver chain, though the chain was manufactured in modern times. 

Length of Chain - 18 inches - 45.6 cm
Dimensions of Pendant - 1 x 2.75 inches - 2.5 cm x 7 cm

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Antique Silver Bead Signed by Iraqi Haron, made in Yemen

We are so pleased to have found a man in Yemen who could translate the stylized signatures written in the archaic Arabic in use as late as 1900. We sent photos of our beads to the translator in Yemen who graciously 'read' out the names. This one was a puzzle to him, because he did not know that Iraqi could be a Hebrew name. I mention Hebrew here, since the Yemenite Jews were the silversmiths that created so much of the jewelry for the wedding customs in Yemen of the 1800s and 1900s. The translator did not know the history of the Jews and that Iraq had many Jews from the times of various diasporas. 

Those familiar with the Hebrew scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament) know that often a given name was accompanied with a place name. Up into New Testament times, we read Saul of Tarsus, Jesus of Nazareth and many other such names. So it would not be unusual that such a tradition should hold among a tightly knit community of minority people in a place such as Iraq or Yemen. 

This bead is an important cultural artifact of the Yemenites, especially of the work of the Jewish silversmiths. Such beads were usually strung on necklace with amulets for the bride to wear on her wedding day and then own as a dowry, such as in this photograph (see more information on this piece here.  This culture no longer exists in Yemen. By 1948, the silversmith workshops had closed and the artisans had gone to the state of Israel. 

This bead is a handsome ornament when hung on a chain or cord, or used as the focus of a beaded necklace, such as I have done in this design put together with a bead much like the one that is the subject of this blog entry. 

See more information on this necklace HERE.

Dimensions of signed bead in first photo: 34 mm (1.33 in) x 36 mm (1.4 in)

To purchase the bead signed by Iraqi Haron, CLICK  HERE.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Out of Yemen Bead by Bead, Traditional Jewelry Disappears

Antique Yemen Silver Bead Pendant Signed by Silversmith on Sterling

This large silver bead from the late eighteenth or early twentieth century in Yemen is decorated not only with the signature of its maker but also with two handmade carnelian beads and smaller silver beads. The traditional pattern applied to the large spherical bead is called by at least two different names: lentil and starshot. Since this style of bead is not made of filigree or dots or granules of silver all over the surface, its smoother surface allows the silversmith a place for his signature. 

This one is indeed signed as was the traditional practice. The bead has been worn a lot and the signature is quite worn, as are the decorations on the bead. It is thereby graced with a beautifully balanced patina. It has been in our collection for several years and we have never polished it, only buffed it lightly with a soft cloth. Moreover, it had not been polished with chemicals before we collected it. 

It is an eyecatching adornment and needs no other surrounding decoration. So I simply fashioned a sterling silver wire choker or torq and hung the lovely old bead on it. The bead itself was made of coin silver from the Maria Theresa thaler of the Hapsburg Empire, a coin that was being used by Europeans from about the mid-1800s to the early 1900s to buy Yemen exports such as coffee and frankincense. 

The neck wire encircles the old Hebrew document

You are quite familiar with coffee, but many moderns do not know frankincense. It is secreted from the Boswellia tree or shrub and is used in worship services as incense. It was used in Yemen to make amber beads as well. In fact, the Yemeni people use the same word for 'amber' and for 'bead.' The frankincense resin is not quite a hard fossil like the Baltic amber. But it is hard enough to make the old irregularly shaped beads, really just globs of frankincense resin that have been bored through and strung. They make very attractive primitive style beads. Much of Yemen's oldest extant jewelry includes such beads. 

It was for this substance and for the coffee beans -- some of which were roasted 'arabica' style in Yemen before export -- that the Europeans brought the silver thalers from which this bead and the smaller bead baubles were made. Agates such as carnelian and quartz are also highly prized in Yemen. The Yemenis still export the clear quartz agate beads that do not show the large crystals as might be expected of quartz; rather they are somehow clear and smooth in appearance. The carnelians on this pendant are not from Yemen; They are from India. They bear the characteristics of handmade beads, in that the bead hole was bored by hand. It does not go straight through the small carnelian beads and it is quite a bit smaller at the interior joining of the bore that was made first from one side of the bead and then from the other. 

Pendant Measurements: 35 mm x 84 mm (1.4 in x 3.25 in, including carnelians and small silver baubles) 
Torq Length: 18 inches (46 cm)

For purchasing information see my website at http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/craftsofthepast/5061831/

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Ornamental Dagger of Yemen

Antique Yemen Inscribed Ornate Silver Dagger in Sheath Still Usable

This dagger or jambiya is one of the old daggers forged and decorated by the superb Yemenite Jewish silversmiths that emigrated to Israel in the early 1900s and took their artistic knowledge and ability with them. 

The sheath is decorated profusely with granulation and inlay, and is partially wrapped in a soft black leather. The dagger is still sharp and is in usable condition. The loops attached to leather wrapping serve to attach the dagger to the clothing of the wearer of the dagger. 

Such daggers are worn by Moslem men. This particular one is inscribed with the name 'Daoud' or David written in Arabic. He was probably the owner and wearer of this fine piece. The antique daggers are worn as a status symbol because of the financial value. Yemen still has metalsmiths that create imitations of these magnificent pieces, but the material and the silversmith's techniques are inferior. Many of recent manufacture are made as simply decorative items and are not meant to be used. 

The old jambiyas are to be worn on an elaborately woven belt woven originally by men but the art is now being taught to younger women. As explained by Marta Colburn, a frequent traveler to Yemen:

Men in Yemen do not commonly wear jewelry, except for silver rings. The one exception is the decorative dagger called a jambia, which is a common item of dress for most highland Yemeni men. The jambia has great symbolic value establishing one's place in social hierarchies and tribal membership, though it is rarely used as a weapon. The j-shaped version of this dagger, asib, is worn by tribesmen, while judges, legal scholars and religious elites wear a more gently-curved version called a thuma or tuza .... This version worn by elites often displays very intricate and exquisite silver craftsmanship on the sheath.

The belt is an important decorative and functional element of the jambia. Leather is covered with velvet and other fabric embellished with geometric or religious designs in metallic gold or silver thread. The designs may be embroidered or, as in the case of my belt, tablet-woven brocade. Traditionally various silver crafted items would be sewn to the belt for decorative and functional purposes (powder horn, money pouch and amulets). -- Marta Colburn

This dagger was collected from an antiques dealer in Yemen. 

Your inquiry is invited. 

Sheathed Dagger - 2.5 in x 14 in (6.3 cm x 35.5 cm)

For purchasing information see CraftsofthePast .

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)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bridal Dowry Bracelet of the Yemenite Jews

Antique Yemen Silver Bracelet Bawsani Filigree Domes Rosette Clasp

More information on availability at DESIGNER'S WEBSITE

This is a beautifully designed antique Yemen silver bracelet with twelve small domes worked in Bawsani style filigree that decorates the middle band around the bracelet. The bands at the top and bottom of the bracelet are inlaid with beaded wire; all the decoration on the age-darkened silver of the base band glows with the nobility of old silver. 

The fastener is the traditional screw fastener of the Middle East. On the opposite side of the bracelet from the fastener is the matching hinge. One of the above photos shows the hinge side of the bracelet. The bracelet is in its original condition except for the aging and the smoothing of its features from being worn against skin or clothing. 
Even the rosette fastener cover is in its original condition with no chips or missing pieces. Such bracelets are becoming ever more rare. 

This beautiful piece of silver was created for a fortunate Yemeni woman before the 1940s when the Jewish silversmiths emigrated to Israel. Odds are that it was not made much before 1930, because traditionally, the older generation's jewelry was melted down to create the bridal dowry for the next generation. In the late 1940s, tradition was broken because the makers of such jewelry were gone. The jewelry became more and more valuable because there was no longer a way to have new pieces made. 

There is a very similar bracelet shown on page 139 of A World of Bracelets by Anne van Cutsem. It is attributed to the goldsmiths of Sana'a, Yemen, which was the location of the Bawsani community of gold and silver craftsmen. 

If you are interested in purchasing this item on our Lay-Away plan (see my policies page), just contact me by clicking on the Contact Seller button on this page. 

Inside diameter - 1.99 inches (5.1 cm) Width of band - 1 inch (2.5 cm)
The bracelet will fit around a 6.25 inch (15.1 cm) wrist

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Exceptional Silver Crafts among Yemenite Jewish Silversmiths

This piece is the example par excellence of the exception in design, in symbols and in the shape and intent of the silver crafts in Southern Arabia among the Jewish community who influenced the other cultures in that area with their ornamental design.  

While East Asia jewelry artisans were creating ornamental art in fantastic jade carvings, and Central Asia was creating amulets of great size with layers of gold over silver, the craftsmen of the Southwest region of Asia were creating intricate wire decoration that came to be called Bawsani style filigree. both open work and inlaid filigree.  

This is an amulet of importance, still containing the prayers inside.  Here is the fuller story from my website.

This magnificent old Yemen silver filigree necklace still contains the tiny booklet of prayers and blessings that it was meant to contain. The top panel slides and allows the book to be removed if the owner wishes to do so. I have never touched the sheaf of bound papers on which the blessings are written. I have only looked at them for the purpose of describing this precious cultural artifact from a vanished culture. 

The sliding top panel results in a slightly asymmetric sett to the loops to which the Bawsani bead chain is attached. The maker of the panel needed part of the link to make a lip at the right-hand side in order to easily grasp the panel and slide it open. The asymmetric sett does not prevent hanging the amulet straight while wearing it. 

Back to my mention of a vanished culture in the previous paragraph. This piece is the result of the excellent skill of the Yemen Jewish silversmiths. This piece in particular is a prime example of that style of silversmithing. But by 1948, all the Yemen Jewish silversmiths had emigrated to Israel, a new state at that time. Once they were gone, the Yemeni people continued to value the thousands of beautiful pieces of jewelry that remained in the nation of Yemen. Our family began our collection of these outstanding cultural treasures in 1976 and continued to collect them until a few years ago. 

This prayer amulet necklace is one of the finest pieces of jewelry in our collection of antique prayer amulets and Bawsani beads from Yemen. Now to explain just a bit about the name Bawsani. It refers to the House of Baws, or Beit Baws, a community of silversmiths near Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. They developed a very high level of skill in creating intricate filigree, both open work and filigree. This amulet necklace includes three of the styles in which the House of Baws created silver filigree. 

First the inlay on the prayer amulet. You will not find better work in this genre in the world at any time. Just look at the detail. While I am describing the precious amulet, I have to point out the carnelian gemstone in the center. It is the highly prized Yemen agate that is commonly used in ring settings. At first I thought it was glass, but I have determined that it is the blood red carnelian that the Yemenis prize so highly. The gem, whether glass or stone is a perfectly formed cabochon, highly polished and deep blood red. The inlay surrounding it enhances its beauty. The tiny floral design is typical of some of the finest filigree inlay produced for wedding jewelry in Yemen of that time. 

Secondly consider the Bawsani bead pendants that dangle from the bottom and sides of this prayer amulet. The top row of the pendants consists of round open wire filigree beads that match the twelve beads that form the side chains. From those, the silversmith hung tiny Bawsani beads with their peculiar elliptical shapes in open wire work. These hang also from the sides of the prayer amulet. They have become very rare to find on beaded jewelry that remains in Yemen. 

Third are the classic Bawsani style filigree beads; in this piece they are the twelve round open wire filigree beads that form chains to which the prayer amulet is attached. They are highly valued among collectors. To them, the Yemeni designer of this necklace attached small plain surfaced beads which is a common practice. 

The end pieces on this necklace are beauties themselves. They were probably made by a different silversmith. At each end of the terminals there are very small pentagonal beads that are called berry beads, because they are made with openwork granulation. Globules of silver are fused together while still soft to form this delicate and also very highly prized beads. The chain is a typical Yemen chain and has the obligatory male fertility symbols attached to a bridal dowry necklace. 

This necklace with its prayer amulet including prayers and the abundance of Bawsani filigree is complete, original and in very good condition. 

Your inquiries are invited. We can arrange a lay-away plan if you prefer, a plan whereby you choose the schedule and amount you will pay in installments, and I will ship the necklace when the last payment is received. 

Necklace = 25 in (50 cm) long.
Amulet = 3.5 in x 5 in (9 cm x 13 cm) including attachements

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cultural Influence on Turkmenia from Western Asia

We have seen how Mongolian late Neolithic culture and its successors in the Far East influenced the Mongolians who came down from the Altai mountains and established a Greater Turkmenia than the lands we now know as the 'stans of Central Asia, primarily are discussing the Turkmen who live in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

For today's topic let's consider the cultural influence from the West.  In fact, this culture was already there when the Turkmen began to move onto the desert oases in late antiquity, some time after 400 A.D.  There they found the remnants of the Greco-Persian kingdom of Bactria in Afghanistan and in Turkmenistan the Turkmen might have found a few people left from the ruins of the Indo-Iranian Margiana settlement that was closely related to the Bactrians.  Once the Turkoman herders settled in watered areas, they would have begun to find the ritual objects of the early Greek, Persian and Indian cultures.  In Bactria, there was still an Indo-Iranian-Buddhist culture that had reigned as the Kushans, or at least they would have found the huge amounts of cultural remains of it.  The monumental statues of Buddha in Bamiyan come to mind here.  But there was much, much more.  So much more that both archeologists and 'prospectors' are still finding the relics of that culture constantly.

But let's see what I mean when I say that the Bactria-Margiana culture that came from at least as far West as Anatolia (now Turkey, another home of the Turkmen).  But the Turks did not conquer as far West as Turkey until after 1200 A.D.   So when the first Mongol Turks came out of the Altai mountains in the Northern Steppes of Central Asia, they found the successor societies to Bactria and Margiana still steeped in much of the culture of the former residents.

Let us compare a cultural symbol of modern Afghan Turkomans, descended through the Kazakhs of Afghanistan.  It is inscribed on the back of a pendant made in the early part of the twentieth century, around 1930 or 40, I estimate.  Here is the photo and the link to the page that shows the front panel of the pendant:
More about this pendant HERE.

You will see that the figure is a circle of rhomboid shapes with a very faint circle in the middle.  The rhombus circle is so arranged that the eight shapes allow a straight line horizontally and vertically, making the + sign.  Then their arrangement allows one to make a diametrical X along the lines of the rhomboid shapes.  This suggests the symbols on the Bactrian stamp seals on which I find what I believe are meditation images that the Indo-Iranian, especially the Hindi culture, adopted as early as the Late Bronze Age, around 1,500 B. C. and evn earlier.  In the Hindi cultures, they are now called mandalas.   I have a collection of many of them.

Here is an example with just a slight difference in appearance, but a very important difference when understanding that the Mongol Turks never became much like Bactrians.  I believe they only assumed a few acculturations such as making certain images in wood, clay and metal.

Here is the photo and the link to more information on the Bactrian stamp seal
More information available HERE.

You will note that while the Turkoman inscribed design in the first photo above invites the line of sight to travel between the rhomboid shapes, the Bactrian casts the metal stamp seal so the eye follows the same distribution of lines -- horizontal, vertical and diametric -- but the eye begins at the point of the rhombuses and travels to the opposite rhombus tip, no matter whether the line is horizontal, vertical or diametric.  

We see the same distribution of eight shapes, shapes that are hauntingly similar, though the early molds for casting copper and bronze were not nearly as exact at making points as a stylus engraver can be in inscribing the silver pendant.  

I hope this proposition has been at least a bit entertaining, though not scientific.  I invite you to my online shop for the story behind many, many things in my rich collection that I am now selling.  You will find a warm welcome and a ready correspondent at CraftsofthePast.artfire.com