Tiznit necklace, Morocco, worn by married women

One of jewellery’s most important functions is to reveal the status of the wearer. Jewellery can also indicate social status, or the religious group to which the wearer belongs. People she meets will know if and how to address a woman by the jewellery she wears.

 

Status as a bride and wife

The custom of giving jewellery to a woman on her marriage has a long history in the region, and is already recorded in the book of Genesis, where the servant of Abraham presents Rebeccah with a gift of a gold nose ring and two golden bracelets when he asks for her hand in marriage for the son of his master, Isaac. The amount and value of the jewellery given to brides varies from country to country; it even differs between regions and villages within a country. The dowry gift is generally known as mahr, a term that varies in different languages. The particular gift of jewellery is known as shabka in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, the Arab Peninsula and Jordan. In recent times the tradition has come under discussion, prompted partly by the lack of  standards and the fact that there is less need for a mahr and shabka.

 

Status as a mother

When a woman brings children into the world, her status changes accordingly. In many countries women who have children wear certain jewellery items to celebrate her status and her honour as a mother.