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The traditional jewellery of the Berber tribes of North Africa is almost always made of silver in heavy, clearly-defined shapes. Although individual pieces rarely date back any earlier than the 19th century, the designs are very old, and European observers liked to find traces of Roman or Phoenician influence.
Earrings in the 19th century were particularly large, and are sometimes mistaken for bangles today. The decorative bead in the centre would have made it very uncomfortable to wear these on the wrist, and the hook fastening is the kind which was always used for earrings, not bangles.
These were obtained in Cairo, and described as ‘Saracenic’ when they were acquired by the Museum in 1884. Egypt was the main production centre for jewellery for use by the nomadic tribes of the region, who obtained all their jewellery from specialist urban silversmiths.
Pair of earrings, each consisting of a hoop of thick silver wire with one end twisted to form a hook and the other a loop. The lower portion of the hoop, just behind the loop, is decorated with a large hollow oval bead threaded on the hoop, with a short length of the hoop on either side of it wrapped in finer wire to hold it in place. The bead is lightly facetted all over and is decorated with a double band of gallery wire round its centre, and a small triangle, made of short lengths of coiled wire, attached at the bottom. There is a similar triangle attached to the lower edge of each of the bands of wire wrapped round the hoop.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Diameter: 6 cm
Object history note
Bought from the collection of Gaston de St Maurice (1831-1905) in 1884.
Pair of large silver hoop earrings with a hollow bead and triangles attached to the hoop, Egypt, 1800-1884.
Metalwork; Africa; Jewellery