Berber/Amazigh jewellery serves a much wider purpose than simple adornment. The jewellery a woman wears identifies her as a member of a clan or tribe, it is a sign of her wealth, it reflects cultural traditions and it has power beyond the visual, to protect her from the evil eye.
A woman will receive jewellery from her mother until she marries. For her marriage, her future husband will commission his mother or sister to provide jewellery for her and these will be kept by her as dowry. Added to this jewellery will always be made of silver, as gold is considered evil in Amazigh culture.
Necklaces are important, the traditional assemblage in the southern oasis valleys sometimes featuring talismans of silver, pink coral, amazonite, amber, Czech glass and West African ebony beads. A woman will also have bracelets, fibulas (elaborate brooches, often triangular, used for fastening garments), anklets, earrings and headdresses. Some pieces will be worn every day, others – the finest – will be saved for occasions such as festivals, pilgrimages and funerals.
Berber/Amazigh jewellery is one of the best examples of the unique savoir-faire of Moroccan craftsmen and explores what is specific and unique to Aamazigh culture. If the Islamic tradition requires men not to wear gold, it is not the case for women, although in most cases families have no wealth to adorn their women with gold anyways.
In addition, jewellery was often melted down and sold in times of scarcity, to be eventually redeemed. Berber women, adorned with heavy bracelets and necklaces in the shape of large chains attached to two brooches, would adorn the whole family fortune, as if they were some sort of “walking bank”. These large bracelets and heavy chains were used as defensive weapons, which that they often take the shape of sharp and pointed diamonds. If faced with danger, a woman could easily knock down her assailant with the momentum of his arm and the weight of the bracelet.
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