This stunning woman’s silver necklace is of enamelled silver elements, silver beads inset with coral, and coral beads. It is from the Berber Ben Yenni people of the Great Kabylia region in Algeria.
This necklace features rural stringing with elements having been added over time as the village woman owner was able to afford more pieces. In this way, such a necklace is highly personal, and also operates as a store of wealth, charting the owner’s fortunes as the necklace expanded and contracted according to her needs as she added to it and then presumably occasionally sold parts of it off to raise cash as needed.
The necklace also includes a central pendant talismanic box which might have held protective Koranic scripture inside. The box is decorated in enamel and applique work on both sides but in different styles, making it reversible for wearing.
The ample red coral is all genuine Mediterranean coral with age and wear. The silver beads and other elements are enamelled with yellow, blue, green enamel. Some of the elements include protective or talismanic ‘hands of Fatimah’.
Related examples of enamelled silver Berber necklaces are illustrated in Daalder (2009, p. 399), and in Seiwert (2009, p. 95).
Overall, the example here is striking and luscious necklace, and a fine example of this type or Berber work from north Africa.
Daalder, T., Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment: Australia, Oceania, Asia, Africa, Ethnic Art Press/Macmillan, 2009.
Seiwert, W.D., Jewellery from the Orient: Treasures from the Bir Collection, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2009.