9272

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    Six Extremely Fine Silver Beads with Filigree, probably by Yusuf Salih

    Sanaa, Yemen
    early 20th century

    length (of conical bead): 8.9cm, combined weight: 187g

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    Provenance

    private collection, UK; from a collection collected in Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This remarkably fine set of four oval-shaped beads and two conical-shaped finial beads are made from fine bands of tightly-wound silver filigree and broad ribs as well as being decorated with applied silver plaques and wirework, That on the conical beads is particularly attractive, with bands of wavy wire work.

    Ransom (2014, p, 46) illustrates a strung set of six essentially oval beads and a pair of conical finial beads and attributes them to the Sanaa-based silversmith Yusuf Salih. The beads here are identical to the point that these too can be attributable to the same silversmith. Yusuf Salih almost certainly a Jewish silversmith – indeed much of the higher-end silverwork undertaken in Yemen for local clients was undertaken by local Jewish artisans. This industry largely disappeared from the 1940s onwards when many of these silversmiths and their families migrated to Israel via the Operation Magic Carpet.

    As Ransom says, in their time, the work of particular master silversmiths was recognised and so it was not necessary for each piece to carry the maker’s signature: the work was so distinctive in terms of motifs and especially quality, that the work itself was the signature.

    The silver beads here among the best examples of Yemeni silver jewellery work known.  They are in excellent condition.

    References

    Ransom, M., Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry, AUC Press, 2014.

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