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)