The visual drama of this necklace is clear, but the meanings associated with it are more profound. For people living in the vicinity of the horn of Africa—and elsewhere—amber and agate are two materials believed to have both healing and protective powers. In addition, Somali women traditionally have kept their wealth in the form of jewelry, and therefore an elaborate piece such as this would have been evidence of a family’s wealth and prestige. Though the origin of this jewelry has not been extensively studied, its style suggests an origin on the Arabic Peninsula, either as part of the extensive trade that took place with the Horn of Africa or as a product made by immigrants or visiting craftsmen who themselves traveled to Somalia.
18th century (?)
Amber, agate, silver
L. 10 ¾ in. (27.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of the Foundation for Cross Cultural Understanding, 2005.155