This rare set of silver and enamelled linked fibula and chains comprise a pair of Faux Taouka fibula linked with a particularly splendid set of highly adorned chains and pendants.
The set is from Talouine in the mountainous Sirouan region of south-east Morocco. The altitude of this region is such that it is suited to growing saffron.
The chains and pendants are exceptional and are the work of a master silversmith.
The town of Talouine lies within a wealthy saffron producing area. Women from wealthy farming families are known to have commissioned Jewish silversmiths from nearby Ait Khabous to create exceptional pieces of this type to their individual design during this era.
The fine filigree work, double-faced central pendant with green and red glass cabochons, the similarly double-faced chain caps and the particularly desirable blue and yellow enamel indicate that these chains and pendants were a commissioned piece.
Until visitors to Morocco developed a historical interest in these jewels many were broken up and repurposed to make them easier to sell in the boutiques of the cities souks. It is therefore exceptionally rare to find complete sets of these intricate chains especially those which include the large enamelled drop pendants.
The large fibulae are in a style known as Faux Taouka. ‘Taouka’ means ‘wormholes’ and was a style made from tiny fused tubes of silver which was adopted and worn by the women of the Ait Ouarzguit tribal confederation in the Jbel Siroua region. This technique was the height of fashion in the 1920s, however those who did not have access to or who could not afford the few silversmiths who created the prized Taouka work, employed local Arabic silversmiths to create pieces which replicated the pierced appearance of Taouka work by marking tiny dots onto the surface of a silver fibula.
The triangular markings and trefoil fins to the sides of the fibula are also in keeping with the fibula styling from the Sirouan mountains and surrounding areas. The fibulae such as the ones in this piece are referred to as Faux Taouka by the women locally.
A linked fibula set of similar form and quality can be seen in the collection of Yves St Laurent in the Berber Museum in Marrakesh. A related example attributed to the late 19th century is illustrated in Hoek (2004, p. 27).
The example here is in very fine condition. Just one of the two superb filigree beads has some minor use and age-related loss (see the image below) but otherwise there is no other damage or repairs.
Besancenot J., Costumes of Morocco, 1988.
Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.
Rabate, M., & A. Goldenberg, Bijoux du Maroc, Edisud, 1999.
Ramirez F. & C. Rolot, Bijou du Maroc, 2002