Name of Object:



Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gold embellished with enamel.


Diameter 2.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Possibly Fustat, Egypt.


Archaeological excavations in the Egyptian City of Fustat have furnished us with some pieces of jewellery such as bracelets, rings, earrings and pendants of gold and silver. A number of techniques in jewellery-making and ornamentation were widespread in Egypt during the Fatimid period. Some of the most important techniques were carving, piercing and enamel inlay. The piece illustrated here is a good example of decorative enamel inlay.
Generally, decorative enamelling was done in one of two ways: one way – called lobed enamel – involves pouring the enamel into small metallic lobes, closely resembling moulds. After firing the lobes in a kiln, they are then mounted in specific places in accordance with the design on to the gold surface of the piece of jewellery. The other way involves making deep-grooved decorative carvings of the desired design on the surface of the piece; enamel is then poured into the grooves and the piece is then fired in a kiln. The former method is a quicker and faster way than the latter. The piece illustrated here is an exquisite example of lobed enamel jewellery – the first method of decoration with enamel.
This is a circular pendant whose form assumes a concave surface. Its decorative layout is arranged along three horizontal sections. The central section, which is the broadest, is filled with an inscription in kufic script set in white, decorated in red, and placed against a background of ash-green. The text reads: “… God is best to take care [of him]” and is part of verse (ayah) 64 of the Chapter of Joseph (Yusuf; no. 12). The sections above and below the inscription are decorated with a vegetal branch, each of which is depicted in red, and set against a green background.

View Short Description

Women used all kinds and shapes of jewellery, such as bracelets, rings, earrings, brooches and pendants. Techniques in ornamentation included engraving, incising, piercing and enamel inlay. This piece is good example of decorative enamel inlay.

How date and origin were established:

The pendant is dated by means of studying the kufic script used in the decoration. Dating was also greatly assisted by a comparative study of the pendant's craftsmanship that, together with some objects made of stucco, have been uncovered in archaeological excavations in the Egyptian City of Fustat, and which are attributed to the same period.

How Object was obtained:

The object was discovered during the course of archaeological excavations that took place in Fustat in 1916.

How provenance was established:

A study of the pendant's craftsmanship with reference to stucco objects also uncovered in archaeological excavations in Fustat suggests that the pendant may have been produced there.

Selected bibliography:

Hassan, Z. M., Atlas al-Funun al-Zukhrufiya wa al-Tasawir al-Islamiya [Atlas of Islamic Decorative Arts and Pictorial Representations], Beirut, 1981.
Hamdi, A. M., Mu'addat al-Tajmil bi-Mathaf al-Fan al-Islami [Cosmetic Implements at the Museum of Islamic Art], Cairo, 1959.
________ et al, Katalog Ma'rid al-fan al-islāmi fi misr [Catalogue of the Islamic Art Exhibition in Egypt], Cairo, 1969.
Sayour, S. A., “Les bijoux au cours de l'ère islamique”, in Prisma, No. 19, 1999, p.36.
________________, “Las Joyas en la época Islamica”, in Prisma, No. 7, 1998, p.25.

Citation of this web page:

Salah Sayour "Pendant" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;eg;Mus01;24;en

Prepared by: Salah SayourSalah Sayour

Salah Ahmad Sayour holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University (1973) and is currently studying for an MA in the same field. In 1979 he had a four-month scholarship at Austrian museums to study museology. Preparing exhibitions for the Museum of Islamic Art's collections in the Arab World Institute, Paris and curating exhibitions held in host museums in the USA and Paris augmented his experience leading to his appointment as head of several sections at the Museum. He has written several articles on Islamic painting and arts for Prism Magazine published by the Ministry in different languages and has participated in preparing scientific texts for the catalogues for the Museum's exhibitions at home and abroad.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (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: ET 41


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