By Juergen Stryjak
Note: This month's shopping review has been compiled by staff members.
18 karat gold, lapis lazuli, and black enamel
1" x 3/4" beetle, 2 1/4" diameter
22nd Dynasty, reign of Shoshenq II, Tanis, c.890 BC
The original bracelet is in the permanent collection of the Cairo Museum.
This simple, yet elegant bracelet was originally worn by Shoshenq II. Made of gold it depicts a papyrus reed at the ends. Black enamel outlines the papyrus design. Between the papyrus ends is a lapis lazuli scarab fixed in a gold mount.
Egyptians are famous for their jewelry, and probably have been throughout history. Examples are abundant on statues and paintings or reliefs of queens, but also any number of noble and even common women. Jewelry was used for adornment, protection as in amulets, and of course, as symbols of status. In fact, the worlds oldest known surviving jewelry is said to have been found on an Egyptian Queen Zer, a bracelet made from turquoise and gold. Jewelry was often made of gold, but somewhat later, silver was used. Besides turquoise, which was mined early on in the Sinai, other popular stones included lapis lazuli, and carnelian, and amethyst.
Fatamid Era Jewelry
The jewelry craze did not stop with the ancient Egyptians. When the Arabs came to town, they bought with them a wide range of jewelry which, while different then the ancient Egyptian designs, nevertheless were beautiful and unique in their own way.
The Arabs have always been great designers, and today, Arabic jewelry remains timelessly elegant, often with impressive calligraphy and arabesque designs.
In Egypt, jewelry might be broken down into several categories. These might consist of:
This includes both jewelry for tourists and Egyptians, which often consists of Bedouin designs made from silver and less precious metals. One may find this throughout Egypt, in both tourist establishments as well as shops that deal with the local populous, though these are often not jewelry stores. More often then not, they are stores that sell a variety of Arabic items. Some of the better items are sold through stores owned by the craftsman who make the jewelry. This type of jewelry can usually be purchased for well under $10 USD.
The most common jewelry that is pushed to tourists are slightly more expensive, made from either gold or silver. Usually, this jewelry has a pharaonic design, such as the ever popular cartouch and "head of Nefitari pendents. This type of jewelry can by purchased all over the Internet, but usually well above the price that one may pay in Egypt. In Egypt, almost every single jewelry store carries some form of tourist jewelry, so it may be found at your hotel, the Khan, and just about anywhere else. The cost of this type of jewelry in Egypt may range anywhere from approximately $15 to $250 USD, those considering the variety available, pieces might be found for somewhat less, and occasionally, a great deal more.
Tourist Jewelry - Fine Antiquity Reproductions
For an example of a fine reproduction, see the image at the top of the page, which is not really an artifact at all, but a carefully made reproduction of an actual piece. Normal tourist jewelry is rarely made to exacting details as reproductions of actual jewelry from Egypt's antiquity, and in fact, most of it bares no resemblance to actual historical pieces. However, a few jewelers to make such reproductions, which are generally very expensive, and for good reason. Most use massive amounts of gold with setting stones that match the actual museum piece. Frankly, this type of jewelry may probably be found just as easily outside of Egypt as in Egypt, though it is likely to be less expensive if found in Egypt. Mostly, this type of jewelry is found in some of the finest jewelry stores, and a few locations in the Khan el-Khalili. Look for prices beginning in the $250 USD range with an upper limit in excess of $5,000 USD.
Regular Egyptian Jewelry Regular, or non tourist jewelry can really be broken down into two types of jewelry, consisting of very normal items which might be found anywhere in the world, and items more unique to the Middle East. And as elsewhere in the world, the price range varies from under $100 USD on up.
By ordinary, we mean jewelry that might be purchased by an Egyptian in Egypt, or people anywhere else in the world in their local jewelry store. However, due to exchange rates and the high competition of many jewelry stores in Egypt, bargains may be easily found. Gold and silver jewelry is often sold almost strictly by weight.
Arabic and Egyptian
Lapis Lazuli & Silver Pendant
From the Nomad Gallery
14, Saraya Al Gezira, 1st Floor
The Egyptians are very fine jewelers, and some of their modern, non-tourist jewelry is elegant and even inspired, not to mention unusual. This jewelry often discourages the use of diamonds in favor of larger, more exotic stones, and the striking result can be fantastic.
The Above two examples are from the Sheba Gallery
6 Sri Lanka St., Zamalek, Cairo
Last Updated: August 21st, 2011