Traditional jewelry in the WANA region is made of silver and given to women as dowry. This silver will remain a woman’s personal possession to be at her disposal in times less fortunate. These objects may then be sold and melted again. “El hadayat l’ill wa’t el shadayat” (bracelets are for difficult times) is an old Arab proverb. Wearing jewellery and silver, coins on veils or amulets is a way to carry personal possessions on the body making it functional both in monetary and decorative sense.
Many famous silversmiths can be traced to the WANA region. A network of jewellers may be found here, providing in the need for silver decoration and adornment. In Cairo “the Doctor” and Mohammed al Mekkawy received some fame in the second half of the 20th century. Much of the silver was re-used several times. Sometimes silversmiths occasionally also added different metal to the silver, reducing the value of the object while creating an alloy, thus hoping to preserve their creation. On social gatherings, silver was finished off with a temporary thin layer of gold. Many of the smiths in the WANA region traditionally were Jews living in different cities and towns.
In the region, with the exception of Turkey, no natural silver sources can be found. Most of the silver used for making traditional jewelry came from coin trade. European coins predominated since the 17th century. Several million Maria Theresia Thalers and Pillar Dollars were traded in the region on an annual basis. This provided the largest source of silver to be used for silver adornment. The quality of the silver percentage in these coins was guaranteed, a rarity without the existence of official hallmarks (see this page for more information on the Maria Therasia Thaler)