This very fine necklace is from Yemen, and most probably from the Mahwit area, in western Yemen. Such necklaces usually were reserved for wear at weddings and other important life festivities. Brides were often presented with such necklaces which they subsequently regarded as among their most important jewellery.
It comprises dozens of old original coral beads, silver beads made of small silver granules that have been carefully soldered together; five large plaques of hollow silver sheet decorated with applied silver filigree and spangles; and three tubular talismanic boxes made of silver decorated with filigree and with suspended hollow spheres (some minor losses here).
The colour of the coral was felt to symbolise youth and beauty. Corals were also believed to staunch bleeding. Such necklaces were worn by local Arabic women as well as by local Yemenite Jewish women.
A related necklace is illustrated in Ransom (2014, p. 73 and p. 101), and Ben-Ami (2002, ill. 12).
The necklace is stable and wearable. Additional chain could be added easily to extend the length of the necklace.
A related Yemen necklace on display in the Islamic Art Museum Malaysia.
(Photographed February 2017.)
Ben-Ami, A. (ed.), In All Their Finery: Jewels from the Jewish World, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2002.
Ransom, M., Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry, AUC Press, 2014.
Seiwert, W.D., Jewellery from the Orient: Treasures from the Bir Collection, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2009.