Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Pair of earrings

Pair of earrings

  • Place of origin:

    Tunisia (made)

  • Date:

    1856-1899 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Edmond Dresden

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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 like this, with a large hoop and decorative end, are found throughout the Maghreb. This design, of a stylised snake’s head, comes from Tunisia. It was worn with a cord connecting the two holes at the ends, which was often decorated with beads, pendants, or a small cylindrical amulet case.

Physical description

Pair of silver hoop earrings made of plain wire, each flattened at one end and pierced with a hole. The other end has a lozenge of flat sheet silver attached with a hollow, highly stylised, snake’s head on the front and a hole at the end.

Place of Origin

Tunisia (made)


1856-1899 (made)



Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Traces of illegible mark in Arabic.
Possibly a town mark.
On flat part by snake's head.

Partial long mark with Arabic character.
Mark for 900 standard silver 1856-1905.
On hoop.


Width: 5.4 cm

Object history note

Accessions register entry: 'Pair of Earrings of silver. / Each formed of a wire of circular section, flattened out and pierced at one end, and at the other terminating in a broad casting resembling a duck's head, of which the beak is pierced. / North African / 319, diam. 2in., 319a, diam. 2 1/8 in.'

Historical context note

'Tunisian jewellery includes a wide variety of hoops, often very large; the circle, with its range of symbolic meanings, offers numerous possibilities for decoration, which may be geometric, cosmic or zoomorphic, like the serpent's heads seen above, of which Tunisian women are extremely fond.'
A World of Earrings, Anne Van Cutsem, Milan: Skira, 2001, p.36

Descriptive line

Pair of large silver hoop earrings with one end terminating in a stylised snake's head, Tunisia, 1856-1899.

Production Note

Possibly Tunisia




Jewellery; Metalwork; Africa


Middle East Section

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.