Unknown Artist/Makerlate 19th-early 20th century

The Jewish Museum, New York

The Jewish Museum, New York

According to various accounts, Jews arrived in Yemen either during the time of Joshua or in the tenth century B.C.E. The first secure evidence for their presence is a series of grave markers dated four centuries later. Some documents from the Cairo Genizah of the tenth to the twelfth century refer to the Jews in southern Arabia, but it is only in the eighteenth century that the Jews of San'a, the capital of Yemen, began to record their history in the city and the surrounding region. Their long presence in Yemen ceased after the founding of the State of Israel, when the Jews of southern and central Yemen emigrated en masse, leaving only a small community in the north.

The departure of the Jews meant the loss of most of the craftsmen of Yemen, especially its silversmiths, a métier that Jews had practiced even prior to the Arab conquest in the seventh century C.E. The fine work evident in this necklace and the small, detailed forms that compose it are the marks of a long tradition of skilled silversmithing. The choker consists of fifteen or more strands. This necklace, known as ma'anageh, was worn by Jewish girls and women from San'a for weddings and festive occasions. The silversmith alternated silver and gilt octagonal and cubic beads to create a rich coloristic effect. The same beads decorate the tadarif, the triangular pieces that cover the ends of the strands of beads, again resulting in a color contrast that is enhanced by small colored glass stones. Characteristic of this type of necklace is the twisting of the strands in the middle. An unusual aspect of this necklace is the biblical inscriptions engraved on the back of the two triangular end panels. These amuletic texts may have been added later, possibly in Israel.

In the Islamic world, jewelry worn by women represented their dowry and the wealth of the household. The great variety of forms and their ownership by all sectors of the Jewish community signify the importance of jewelry to Yemenite Jews.

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  • Title: Necklace
  • Creator: Unknown Artist/Maker
  • Date Created: late 19th-early 20th century
  • Location: Ṣanʻā', Yemen, Asia
  • Physical Dimensions: 3 1/2 × 22 3/4 in. (8.9 × 57.8 cm)
  • Provenance: Derek J. Content Inc., Chipstable-Taunton, England; sold to the Jewish Museum New York, 1994.
  • Type: Ceremonial Art
  • Rights: https://thejewishmuseum.org/about-this-site#terms-conditions
  • External Link: View this object at thejewishmuseum.org
  • Medium: Silver: granulated, filigree, parcel-gilt, appliqué, engraved, and punched; glass