9312

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    Horn of Africa Large Amber Dowry Necklace

    Horn of Africa, probably Somalia, Sudan or Harer, Ethiopia
    19th-early 20th century

    circumference: approximately 89cm, diameter of the largest bead: approximately 3.9cm, weight: 356g

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    Provenance

    private collection, US

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This spectacular and complete necklace of 35 well-matched amber beads of graduated sizes and four hollow silver beads is from Somalia. The necklace is closed by means of a silver chain and a hook catch.

    The size and quality of the amber and the necklace overall is outstanding.

    The amber beads are separated by small discs of hide which is there to protect each bead.

    The beads have good wear and varying colour.

    Such necklaces were a sign of conspicuous wealth on the part of their owners. They were used as dowry gifts for brides. Usually such gifts were the bride’s property that she could keep and sell in the event of divorce.

    Amber was also believed to have prophylactic qualities, as well as being a store and overt display of wealth.

    A very similar example attributed to nearby Harar in Ethiopia is illustrated in Seiwert (2009, p. 281).

    The example here is in excellent condition. It is splendid, rare item.

    References

    Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994.

    Fisher, A., Africa Adorned, Collins Harvill, 1987.

    Liu, R.K., A Universal Aesthetic: Collectible Beads, Ornament, Inc, 1995.

    Seiwert, W.D., Jewellery from the Orient: Treasures from the Bir Collection, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2009.

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