Enquiry about object: 9099
Very Fine Yemen Gilded Silver & Coral Necklace
Yemen, probably Mahwit early 20th century
circumference: 54cm, weight: 258g
UK art market
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This very fine and complete 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 often were presented with such necklaces which they subsequently regarded as among their most important jewellery. Typically, examples are made of un-gilded silver. This example has been richly gilded (plated in gold) and is particularly opulent.
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 pendant double chains which terminate with finials shaped like clove heads.
The reddish 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. It closes with a eye and hook closure. All the elements are present; there are no losses. Each coral element is genuine coral rather than a glass substitute. Overall, this is a magnificent example of its type.
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.