Mother_of_pearl History

Mother_of_pearl History

The Story of Zeus and the seduction of Europa
The great Zeus became enamored with Europa, daughter of King Agenor of Tyre and his queen, Telephassa. Knowing his appearance would both dazzle and terrify the lovely young maiden, Zeus cloaked himself as a white bull with horns of mother-of-pearl and a silver moon emblazoned upon his forelock.

While Europa was playing by the water's edge one day, she saw a majestic bull grazing amid her father's herd. When she approached the animal, it knelt down before her, allowing her to climb upon its back at which point the bull sprang to its feet, riding the waves across the sea to Crete.

Once there, Zeus made the beautiful Europa his mistress, informing her that all the land she could see from the island now belonged to her. This land became known as the continent of Europe.

Ottoman inlay
In the Muslim world, the art form of working in mother-of-pearl came about, in large part, because the Koran discourages the making of realistic images of people and animals. Therefore, abstract and semi-abstract patterns utilizing inlay became the most utilized form of artistic expression.
The use of mother-of-pearl objects among the Turks of Central Asia is mentioned by Marco Polo (1254-1324) and is noted in the memoirs of several Byzantine ambassadors. Kazan Tatars made calligraphic inscriptions in mother-of-pearl.
In more recent times, among the most prolific users of mother-of-pearl were the Ottoman Turks, masters in the art of mother-of-pearl inlay -- as evidenced by the plethora of Koran cases, writing desks, chests, window and door shutters as well as pulpits, lecterns and various architectural pieces.

The picture is of minoan bull's head ca. 1500 bc with restored mother-of-pearl inlay, photo: excavations at mycenae

Extracted from

Mother of Pearl A Traditional Craft
By Saleem Zougbi

Although traditional regional artefacts focus on embroidery, mother of pearl artefacts belong to the more skilled domain of handcrafts produced by artisans in this region.

Most sea shells include a certain material that is luminous. These shells are from mollusks such as the green snail, the nautilus and sea-ear - aquatic animal species found in warm fresh and sea waters. The civilizations of India, China and the Far East have cultivated these creatures for their hard outer coverings. The shells were artistically cut into pieces of exact dimensions and shapes in order to form mosaic images. The pieces were affixed using adhesive materials to eventually become plates, trays, covers of jewellery boxes, etc. One could track mother of pearl artefacts from as early as the Bronze Age of the Shang Dynasty of China (ca. 1600-1050 BC). This handcraft flourished particularly under the Ming emperors (1368-1644 AD).

The vaults of the Vatican include many boxes and cabinets that contain excellent mother of pearl works made by Palestinians in the Holy Land during the past three centuries. This craft has developed greatly during the 19th and 20th centuries. The role of craftsmen from Genoa and Damascus was well recognized historically, but during these two centuries Palestinians mastered this art and passed it on from one generation to the next. These beautiful products include crosses, frames, boxes, models of religious monuments and many other forms. Shells used in this craft are still imported from as far as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Brazil. The entire production process is based on cutting, designing, gluing and polishing. This is carried out in local workshops mostly in the Bethlehem area of Palestine and in Syria.

Extracted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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