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The Silver Jewelry of Oman

Posted by learntobead on December 2, 2010

The Silver Jewelry of Oman


Oman has a very rich and distinctive jewelry tradition. Due to the nation’s long history of seafaring and trade, many influences of other cultures can be seen in Omani jewelry. Oman in particular traded with India and the Golden Triangle: trading partners whose influence is still visible in Omani jewelry today. Many Omani anklets and bracelets are reminiscent of Indian jewelry. A specific type of Omani necklace clearly derives from the jewelry of the Hmong tribes in the Golden Triangle.

 

The jewelry is characteristic of traditional, nomadic societies, but with special touches, techniques and motifs, with all the influences from the outside world.

The use of coins or ‘umla’ is widespread throughout the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. Issued by an official mint long before the introduction of silver hallmarks, coins were an indication of an established and guaranteed silver content.   Two coins that both possess a high silver content and are of consistently good quality, proved to be of major importance in the nomadic societies of the Middle East, and indeed in the economical landscape of the entire world. They are the Spanish columnario or pillar dollar, and the Austrian Maria Theresia Thaler.

Originally, Bedouin and traditional jewelry did not carry hallmarks; the region’s jewelry tradition predates their use, as well as modern state boundaries. As each piece of jewelry was individually ordered from a silversmith, the amount of silver to be used was carefully discussed, weighed and paid for. To establish the correct amount of silver, the material was balanced against a known amount of silver, for example a set of coins such as the Maria Theresia Thaler.

At around the beginning of the twentieth century, most countries adopted an official hallmarking system. For a very long time, existing pieces of jewelry were marked only when they were sold; their exact value only needed to be established at the moment of sale. To illustrate its value, an item of jewelry usually displayed its silver stamp on the outside, where it would be most visible.

One of jewelry’s most important functions is to reveal the status of the wearer. If a husband gives jewelry to his wife it shows respect. Jewelry can also indicate social status, or the religious group to which the wearer belongs.

 

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