Enquiry about object: 7163

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    Egyptian Gilded Fish Fertility Pendant (Samaka)

    Abu el-Numrus, Egypt
    early 20th century

    circumference of chain: approximately 63cm, length of pendant: approximately 22cm, width (of the largest fish): 12.7cm, weight: 185g



    UK art market

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This unusually large and complex pendant or pectoral ornament of gilded copper comprises one large, fish ornament from which are suspended six more silver fish as well as chains of crescent-shaped filigree pendants and faux gilded coins. The ‘coins’ variously are stamped with Ottoman tugra (emblem of the Ottoman sultan) and Arabic script.

    All the elements are further decorated with Islamic-inspired stars and crescent moons over the filigree.

    Both the main fish and the one beneath it have hemispherical blue beads as eyes.

    Coins and fish are typical symbols of plenty and prosperity. Fish pendants were particularly favoured in Egypt’s Abu el-Numrus region, and most probably were made by local Egyptian Jewish jewellers.

    Necklaces from Egypt with similar filigree crescent pendants, faux coins and silver fish are illustrated in Fahmy (2007).

    The example here is in a fine, stable condition. It is unusual to see one of these pendants with so many fish.

    The entire ensemble is suspended from a gilded neck chain and is immediately wearable. There are losses in that some pendant ‘coins’ are missing, as might be expected but the losses tend to be obscured amid the overall profusion.


    Fahmy, A., Enchanted Jewelry of Egypt: The Traditional Art and Craft, The American University in Cairo Press, 2007.

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

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