Algerian woman wearing bead and silver necklace. Photo by Marc Garanger

To cater to the needs of the Islamic world, glass producers in Bohemia produced large quantities of beads and ready made amulets. Red ring bezels engraved with the crescent and stars, or verses from the Qur’an, as well as blue beads to ward off the evil eye, were all in high demand by Bedouin women. One of the characteristics of traditional Bedouin jewellery, which sets it apart from Western jewelry, is that large and small beads are strung on a particular necklace in apparently random order; various materials will have been used, and the overall appearance is one of irregularity rather than symmetry.

Beads are also used to decorate a variety of other objects that are closely related to jewellery. Face veils, amulets, clothing, other jewellery items and even religious items such as tasbihs are frequently made of beads. In addition to their silver jewellery, many women adorn themselves with strings of coloured beads as well. The beads as well as the silver jewellery items form a complete set of personal adornment. Due to their colour and the materials they are made of, beads frequently carry a symbolic meaning as well.


For more information on beadwork, see Wearable Heritage and Ancient Beadwork, both by Jolanda Bos