Ethnic Jewels

An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment

Enamel Louha Pendant from Djerba

Probably 80 to 100 years old, this is a large pendant with Arabic inscription. About 7.5 x 12 cm. Gilt silver with enamel decoration.

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Comment by Edith D on November 13, 2017 at 3:10

Dear EE, Would love to know more about "gates of paradise".  Particularly, what features are typical/required on these pendants and what does modern oral tradition say about their symbolism?  Then, what features do they share with other ancient art forms to connect them to a more ancient tradition?  Looking forward to more info!

Comment by Ethnic Embellishments on November 11, 2017 at 20:46

Dear Edith, 

I have yet to upload information regarding the "gates of paradise" pendants from Morocco.  They rather exactly resemble early grave stele as well.

Comment by Edith D on November 6, 2017 at 1:41

I have recently realized something interesting about these "louha" pendants.  As we all know these are named for the traditional writing boards children at the masjid use to practice their script.  BUT as with much of Tunisian jewelry, this form has much older antecedents.  I believe that this pendant form has its roots in ancient depictions of pagan temple architecture.  First, I have noted that many of these pendants contain architectural elements.  The one above has what looks like 2 windows or doors in the center.  Some of the elements also resemble columns and pediments.  Secondly, I have noted the marked resemblance between this type of pendant and Carthaginian grave stele.  And most of these grave stele have an outlined shape that is meant to mimic the pediment front of a temple.  Take a look at this example////

Comment by Joost Daalder on April 15, 2012 at 20:50

And that back certainly does look very early. I think it is a jewel of a piece!

Comment by Joost Daalder on April 15, 2012 at 20:48

Thanks, Edith. If it were me I'd not worry about the chain unless I happened to be lucky enough to find one that made me feel that it was "exactly "right". If it isn't, you think of a "marriage" every time you handle the piece. I must add that we would not wear it, which makes matters easier: it is to us just a beautiful panel on its own - a great work of art. If one does wear it, the issue becomes of course much harder. I don't think the person who made the comment felt the panel by itself wasn't great - rather that the piece originally would have had a matching chain as well. I think it is a lovely piece as it, myself. A real find, I would have thought!

Comment by Edith D on April 15, 2012 at 19:12

Thanks Joost!  I am always conservative with estimate of age, but this pendant could well be earlier than I thought.  I suspect that this item would have been used with a pectoral chain suspended from khlal pins at the front of the dress.  In Djerba the rihanna chains are still the most popular type of chain used for pectorals.  Sadly, I have been seeing many imitation rihanna now that do not appear to be made in the old way of flattening the links on an anvil.  The rihanna chains I saw in the shops in Djerba appeared to be uniformly die cut with embossed patterns stamped onto the links.  Having said this, I also observed that there are a few talented silver smiths still working in Djerba for those wealthy enough to pay a higher price.  I have come to the conclusion that not everything of high quality in Djerba is old.  There are still a handful of talented silver smiths working there.

Comment by Joost Daalder on April 15, 2012 at 3:52

When I posted it I had not yet seen the back. Also, it is interesting how the various comments here and the one on Facebook complement each other and how unified we all are in liking this! Well done, Edith. I am envious - chain or no chain (that does not matter much to me!).

Comment by Joost Daalder on April 15, 2012 at 3:48

A great piece indeed, Edith. I posted it on our Facebook EJ@A page which prompted someone knowledgeabe there to comment: "c'est un pendentif en argent émaillé de Djerba avec calligraphie datant à peu près du 19 ème siècle .Ne manque à ce beau pendentif que la chaine 'Rihana'".

Which means, of course: "It is a silver enameled Djerba pendant with calligraphy dating back to the 19th century. The only thing missing from this beautiful pendant is the chain called 'Rihana'". That seemed to me welcome comment, and confirmation of the quality of what you have. This kind of piece was unknown to me and I was very happy to re-post it, so that over 2750 viewers had the opportunity to see it, and some certainly noticed it. No doubt others will, too. I think you have a beautiful piece here!
Comment by Edith D on April 14, 2012 at 15:26

Ayis, thanks for translating this for me!  I always have trouble reading decorative script.

Comment by Ethnic Embellishments on April 13, 2012 at 18:05

This is a fantastic piece!  I will attest to the fact that the wirework is very difficult to do!

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