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Silver ‘Prostitute’s’ ‘Bolt’ Bracelet (Swar)

Aulad Nail, Algeria
19th century

internal diameter at widest point: 6.3cm, width: 4.2cm, weight: 103g



private collection, UK.

This unusual, dramatic, but wearable bracelet is from the Aulad Nail (Ouled Nail) region of Algeria.  Of ‘C’ form, it is of pierced silver that has been engraved with geometric motifs and fastened with eleven protruding engraved, square bolts. Each bolt is fastened upright and protrudes outwards.

The women of the area earned a reputation for being ‘courtesans and Oriental dancers’. This was enhanced by their exuberant jewellery and exotic dress. Eventually, it was believed that the women would leave the area to work as prostitutes elsewhere and so bracelets or bangles such as the example here became associated with courtesans and prostitutes in Algeria, or at least amongst the French colonial administrators who worked in Algeria.

Seiwert (2009, p. 67) reports that the women of the area traditionally acquired their dowries before they married by ‘putting their sexual experience to use’.

The bracelet is in excellent, wearable condition without losses or repairs, has a fine patina, and its contours have been softened by handling and wear.

An almost identical example is illustrated in Seiwert (2009, p. 78).


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

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