A rare and wondrous piece from a Yemen bride's dowry of silver and other kinds of beads.

Antique Silver Yemen Bridal Dowry made of five strands of old natural handcrafted coral beads, many granulated silver beads, and pairs of beads in traditional shapes of filigree and granulation attached as drop beads onto the bottom strand of the necklace. The old natural coral beads are matched in size and the strands are measured and spaced so that the necklace hangs harmoniously on the chest of the wearer.

The central plaque holds the amulet and spaces the strands. The plaque with amulet attached is in one of the traditional styles of the early 1900s in Yemen. This piece is handmade in Yemen, including chain and fastener. It is interesting because it is the kind of necklace worn by the Yemeni women on their wedding day and to celebrate the birth of each child.

The necklace was part of a dowry that weighed several pounds, consisting mainly of silver beads crafted by the Yemen Jewish silversmiths for this particular bride. As the young woman aged, it was probably necessary for her to exchange pieces of the bride wealth that she had received on her wedding day from her husband and her family for the necessities of life. The remainder of the dowry may have finally become her livelihood after the death of her husband, who normally was chosen from among men older than she was.

Then when her son(s) were ready to be married, all or part of her dowry might have been given to the son as a bride price for his own wife. At that point, the jewelry that the older woman gave as bride wealth to the next generation was melted down to make new pieces for the start of a new family.

For this very reason, we do not find pieces of silver jewelry from the dowries of Yemeni women that are hundreds of years old. The only reason we find pieces that have survived a hundred years or a bit more is because the Yemeni Jewish silversmiths emigrated to Israel during the early decades of the 1900s, and later dowries were assembled from the old pieces that they left in Yemen for any of the cultures left in Yemen. The dowries could no longer be melted down and made anew. The secrets of the silversmith's craft had left with the silversmiths.

Now most of the old pieces are finding their way into antique jewelry merchants' shops and from there to the cabinets of collectors in other parts of the world, just as happened with this particular piece.

This necklace was published with an article on Yemen necklaces in Ornament Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2006, p. 66.