This book is an amazing profile of Saudi Arabia and the jewellery pieces specific to each region of the Kingdom. What I personally enjoyed looking at was the map of how semi-precious and precious stones, glasswork and design influences have travelled to the gardens of Allah from all over the world.
From medieval times, jewellery has been the sole luxury for the people of the dessert. Generally, the Bedouin people are very practical in the sense that all they really required are the bare necessities such as shelter, food, water, farming work and trade. The good life, the simple life. And yet there is nothing simple in the art of Bedouin jewellery. Local artisans are known for their scrupulous work when it comes to detailing and unique use of metal alloys.
Over the years what we now call Bedouin silver has earned a reputation of being a low grade, readily tarnished metal. Indeed, as it is tradition to melt down pieces belonging to past generations and create new artworks for the young, it is close to impossible to find historical pieces. By melting the silver and mixing in other metals, the purity of silver has gone down steadily, paradoxically adding charm and uniqueness to the craft.
There are now larger sales of Bedouin pieces around the world – but this does not derive from the fact that life’s good and demand is on the rise. On the contrary, the people of the dessert opt for selling their creations rather than keeping them. Some days are tougher than others.
But weddings are immune to tougher times. Any Bedouin bride, regardless of her status within the tribe, will wear the most epic of creations on the day of her wedding. Head, nose, neck, ears, waist – everything will be covered in artisan pieces, even if they are just borrowed for the day. Of course this makes me admire the devotion to tradition of the Bedouin people. I learn from them everyday.
While Bedouin jewellery can be bought almost anywhere these days, for the most unique pieces head over to the female-only souq in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I know one day I will.