Arab jewellery throughout history
Praised throughout history, Arab jewellery continues as a source of inspiration
Throughout history, Arab jewellery has been considered one of the most beautiful and distinctive of all. It is commercialised in many parts of the world and is appreciated for its colours, designs and the love story of the Arab people with their gold and jewellery creations.
According to Islam, it is prohibited for men to use gold and can only give it to women as a sign of love, beauty and power. Although it is true that in some places men wear jewellery, both for a question of a more flexible interpretation of Islam, and for sociocultural reasons, that is, a tradition prior to religious concepts.
Jewellery in Egypt
The jewellery made in Ancient Egypt is the precursor of what we understand today as Arab jewellery. The meaning that the Egyptians gave to jewellery has survived until today in Arab culture:
- Jewellery as a symbol of power and authority: jewellery represented the difference between the ranks of the Egyptian social stratum. Both men and women wore it. Gold stood out above the other precious materials. Owning gold or other types of jewellery let the person’s economic power be known to the rest of the society. A symbology that is maintained today in many Arab countries.
- Jewellery as a symbol of protection. The Egyptians attributed magical powers to jewellery and they were used as protective amulets. We can find snakes, eyes or beetles made from different materials, the aim of which was to keep external evil forces at bay. It is still used today in Arab culture. An example of this is the famous Hand of Fatima. We can find this item of jewellery in bracelets, necklaces and rings and even on the doors of houses as a protection against the evil eye and to bring good luck.
We go to the Iberian Peninsula to speak of Nasrid jewellery. Arab jewellery is the heir of the Egyptian jewellery techniques, of the Greco-Romans worn in Syria and even of Sasanian Persia. Islamic jewellery design took on its own style and personality from the 16th century, based on epigraphic ornamentation.
Nasrid jewellery, within Arab jewellery, was one of the most appreciated. In this sense, taking into account the flexibility of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula we find jewellery again for both men and women. We find examples of Nasrid jewellery in the Archaeological Museum of Madrid that clearly show the perfectionism achieved by the Granadans. He we can see necklaces of bells and coins, and bracelets made with gold plate. Jewellery with the shine befitting gold and its characteristic jangle.
The intellectual Ibn al-Khatib, in his writings about the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, emphasised how women of the nobility wore gold jewellery of all types and even the more modest classes wore silver jewellery. Their love for jewellery reached such a point that it was even rented out for religious celebrations. Men placed jewellery mainly on belts and weapons, but as we have mentioned above, the lax interpretation of Islam enables us to find rings and necklaces worn by men.
Bedouin jewellery is very important within Arab jewellery and has a great deal of influence within Mediterranean jewellery since the situation in the Middle East brought together many influences.
The Bedouins, tribes from the near east that still exist today, used jewellery as trade exchange. However, the most established use was as a dowry of the groom’s family to that of the bride. One of its particular characteristics that is not repeated in Arab jewellery is that by tradition the jewellery is destroyed when the owner dies.
The most used materials in Bedouin jewellery are silver, coral, amber and garnet. Most jewellery is worn as a symbol of protection. Therefore, in Bedouin jewellery we find the three forms of meaning attributed since the times of Ancient Egypt: jewellery as the symbol of protection, that of social status and jewellery as a gift.
Arab jewellery today
Arab jewellery is still one of the most influential both aesthetically and artistically. Countries such as Turkey or the United Arab Emirates are those that head the world rankings in the purchase of gold.
In the countries where Islam is followed according to the letter, jewellery is still predominantly worn by women. In fact, the religion establishes that if the husband dies they can sell their jewellery to maintain their family.
In Arab culture the love for jewellery is very deeply rooted, much more than in other societies. This is why it is often worn for special occasions in an essential way, where bracelets, large rings and earrings are prominent.
Xips: jArab-inspired jewellery
At Majoral we are also in love with Arab jewellery. The use of gold and silver, the excellence of its designs and value provided for generations to the jewellery. Our Xips collection, designed in 2005 by Enric Majoral, is a homage to Arab jewellery.
Traditionally gold and coins are used to captivate with their hypnotic movements and constant jangle. The “coins” of Majoral , have undulating and organic forms. The piece adapts to the body and takes on the attributes of movement and sound, with ripples that increase the sensation of brightness.