Tiznit necklace, Morocco, worn by married women

One of jewelry’s most important functions is to reveal the status of the wearer. If a husband gives jewelry to his wife it shows respect. Jewelry 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 jewelry she wears.

 

Status as a bride and wife

The custom of giving jewelry to a woman on her marriage has a long history in the region, and is even 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 jewelry 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 jewelry 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 jewelry items to celebrate her status and her honour as a mother.The necklace shown below  with carnelian or coral beads is one of these. In some regions the amount of pendants reflects the amount of children, in other regions the necklace is seen as generic for motherhood and can consist of many pendants. In Egypt, when a woman has given birth to a son, sometimes one of the protruding tips is broken off. In Kabylia, Algeria, the mother of a new son is presented with a tabzimt.