One of a pair of earrings
National Museum of Damascus
Around hegira 5th–6th / AD 11th–12th century
Height 5 cm, width (of disk) 2 cm
Gold manufacturing has been known in Syria from at least 2000 BC. Gold artefacts, moulds, and various goldsmiths' tools have been found in numerous Syrian archaeological sites, including those at Ugarit, Mushrifa, and Ebla. During the Classical period, gold jewellery was widely produced in Syria, particularly in Hawran, Palmyra (Tadmur) and Homs.
The development of gold manufacturing in Syria continued during the Islamic period, as exemplified by surviving examples such as this single earring, made from woven gold in the form of a circular disk with radiating edges lined by a string of pearls. In the centre of the disc is a triangular formation of two red rubies and a green emerald. A circular ruby instead of a pearl indicates the top side of the disc, out of which protrudes a link to another triangular set of three precious stones mirroring the ones on the filigree disk, a green emerald and two red rubies set within gold mounts. Above them, located near the ear wire, is a final decorative feature of a little pierced golden sphere also containing a precious stone; an emerald.
This gold filigree earring encrusted with precious emeralds, rubies and pearls indicates the high quality of jewellery production for which the Fatimid period is famed. Similar finds from Egypt and Syria abound.
The production of highly refined gold jewellery flourished in Egypt and Syria during the Fatimid period (358–567 / AD 969–1171). The techniques employed included filigree and a method using granules of gold; twisted rope-like gold, and occasionally inlay work with gems were also employed. Products include bracelets, armlets, earrings, pendants, rings, belts, brooches, and hair ornaments.
Purchased in 1949.
During the Fatimid period, the gold-production centres of Syria and Egypt flourished, particularly those in Aleppo and Cairo. Although this item was obtained by the Museum from Raqqa, it is not possible to determine the provenance of this object definitively.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.196.
Atil, E. et al, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1985.
Seipel, W., Schätze der Kalifen: Islamische Kunst zur Fatimidenzeit, Wien, 1998, pp.119–20; fig. 77.
Mona al-Moadin "One of a pair of earrings" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;16;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 22
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Fatimids | Royal Women: Granddaughters of Fatima al-Zahra′
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