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  • Place of origin:

    Nubia (Worn by women of the Bishariya tribe, made)

  • Date:

    1850-1899 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Rectangular beads of sheet gold alternating with cylindrical onyx beads on a cord of braided red cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Edmond Dresden

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This jewellery was said to have come from West Africa when it was bequeathed to the Museum in 1904. This was probably a misunderstanding, as this piece, and the others associated with it, are part of the traditional jewellery of women from Nubia, particularly the Bishariya. The Bishariya are a nomadic tribe living in the eastern desert south of the Red Sea, in southern Egypt and northern Sudan.

Unlike almost all other Muslim tribal women, the Bishariya preferred their traditional jewellery to be made of gold, although the designs are the same as those of silver jewellery from the same region. Nubia has been renowned for its gold mines since Pharaonic times. The women expected their jewellery to be made from pure gold as far as possible, although it is often beaten very thin.

This necklace, with its mix of delicately patterned gold and cylindrical striped onyx beads, is typical of traditional Nubian jewellery.

Physical description

12 gold beads and 6 onyx beads strung on a red cotton cord, with red and ochre tassels at each end. Each of the gold beads is a shallow hollow square, with two holes for the thread at each side, decorated on the front with a raised geometric pattern of lozenges and rows of small domes. Between every three gold beads are two cylindrical onyx beads, lying horizontally side by side. The onyx beads are cut so that each has a white section in the centre, with brown bands at each end.

Place of Origin

Nubia (Worn by women of the Bishariya tribe, made)


1850-1899 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Rectangular beads of sheet gold alternating with cylindrical onyx beads on a cord of braided red cotton


Length: 315 mm, Width: 10 mm, Depth: 5 mm, Length: 150 mm beads, excluding cord

Descriptive line

Necklace of square gold and cylindrical onyx beads strung on red cotton, Nubia (Egypt or Sudan), 19th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Illustrations of modern examples of similar necklaces.
Page 134 & 138
Enchanted Jewellery of Egypt


Gold; Onyx; Cotton


Jewellery; Metalwork; Africa


Metalwork Collection

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