Silver Bead & Composite Amber Bead Necklace with Silver Amulet Case San’a, Yemen early 20th century
length (approx): 100cm, weight: 383g
This large and impressive necklace comprises eight lathe amber composite beads in rounded cube form; six large hollow spherical silver alloy beads decorated with rubbing and silver spangles suggestive of seeds and thus fertility and prosperity; a hollow silver amulet box with similar decoration; and from this a silver filigree medallion with suspended bells; and other silver beads and silver mesh chain. The necklace is strung on multiple twisted cotton cords.
Some of the silver beads have what are likely to be maker's names in Arabic on little applied plaques. Each of the two larger opposing silver beads on either side of the amulet box have small eyelets which would have permitted additional chains and decoration to be added to the necklace.
Ransom (2014, p. 98) says of a similar necklace that such necklaces were given to women throughout the northern mountains of Yemen after they had given birth for the first time.
The talisman cases incorporated in necklaces such as these either contained written, Koranic talismans, or served themselves as amulets.
Siewert (2009, p. 134) illustrates a necklace attributed to 18th-19th century Yemen which incorporates similar large, hollow silver beads with related granulation work. Similar beads are also illustrated in Ransom (2014, p. 17).
Some of the silver beads and the amulet box here have minor age-related imperfections, small dents, minor losses and so on, but these are to be expected with a genuine and old piece. The necklace is stable and wearable.
References: Ben-Ami, A. (ed.), In All Their Finery: Jewels from the Jewish World, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2002. Ransom, M., Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry, AUC Press, 2014. Seiwert, W.D., Jewellery from the Orient: Treasures from the Bir Collection, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2009.