Philadelphia Museum Exhibits North African Jewelry

Hand pendant with salamander motif, Khamsa 19th or 20th Century, Morocco Silver, bronze

Hand pendant with salamander motif, Khamsa 19th or 20th Century, Morocco Silver, bronze

Philadelphia—With “ethnic” and “global” jewelry so much in vogue, it’s nice to be able to go to the source for inspiration.

From September 4 through December 5, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting “Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection.”

For thousands of years, North Africa—encompassing Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Egypt—has been a crossroads for merchandise trade and cultural exchanges from the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

The exhibition will feature 93 pieces of jewelry and 28 historic photographs from the dynamic region, showing the cultural threads that run through them as well. Highlights include wedding necklaces, hair ornaments, bracelets, earrings and fibulae used to keep veils in place. The show will feature ornate necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings that illustrate the unique creations of jewelry designers and silver workers, utilizing silver, coral, amber, soins and semiprecious stones.

“These objects illuminate the rich history of North African craftsmanship, which has been shaped by the imprint of many different cultural traditions,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener, director/ceo. “We are pleased to collaborate with the Museum for African Art to share this exceptional collection, which is remarkable not only for its quality and great beauty, but also for the rich insights it provides into the customs and cultural diversity of North Africa.”

North African jewelry came to the attention of Western collectors in the 19th century, when North Africa’s historic monuments and archaeological sites were explored.

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