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 of less fortune. These objects may be sold and melted in times of despair. “El hadayat l’ill wa’t el shadayat” (Bracelets are for difficult times) an old Arab verb says. Wearing jewelry 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 in the WANA region. A network of jewelers 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 last century. Much silver was thus re-used several times. Sometimes silversmiths occasionally added different metal to the silver, reducing the value of the object with this 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 the different cities and towns.
In the region, with the exception of Turkey, no natural silver sources are found. Most of the silver used for making traditional jewelry came from coin trade. European coins predominated since the 17th Century. Several million Maria Theresa Thalers and Pillar Dollars were shipped to 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 Therasa Thaler)