Jewelry Making Now

Jewelry Making Now

Traditional Levant jewelry was constructed of silver for the royalty. Silver ornamentation changed to gold around the 1940s.Those who weren’t wealthy wore similar items of copper or bronze. Their jewelry rarely held precious stones, but many semi-precious o¬nes--cornelian, agate, turquoise, amber--were used to add colour. Glass beads of the same or complimentary colours could be added to a main stone in a bracelet or necklace. Syrian metalwork in all its forms still holds a place of esteem in almost every culture around the world.
Traditional Levant jewelry is not simply an aesthetic artifact. Instead, it is a window into marriage traditions, community symbols, minority affairs, economic fluctuations and women’s independence, among others. So while jewelry may seem like a fairly frivolous pursuit, a new exhibit at the Bethlehem University Turathuna Center explores the meaning in a necklace.

As in many cultures, Levant jewelry was most strongly associated with marriage and bride-wealth. The jewelry a bride received from her groom was another part of the marriage contract negotiated between families, and it represented both the wealth of the groom and the regard his family had for his bride. “By wearing the jewelry,” the Turathuna exhibit explains, “a woman was making a public statement not only about her husband but also about herself, for it shows that she must be highly regarded and appreciated to receive so much.”

Interestingly, this statement of regard was also the bride’s exclusive property, to be used as she saw fit. So while the process of bride-wealth may not sound very empowering for women, the traditional jewelry system gave women at least a small measure of financial control. In many cases, women were quite literally wearing the family finances. Some women also invested in their jewelry collections with earnings they received from small enterprises like produce sales and preserved their own kind of nest egg should their families need additional income during hard times.