mad in pursuit notebook


Tribal Necklace from Afghanistan, On A Shoestring

afghanistan tribal dangle

afghanistan tribal necklaceWe found this necklace at All That Jazz on New Years Day. It was marked "tribal necklace" and not very expensive, so I couldn't resist. It's glittery pretty, but actually pretty crude. Three "jangle-dangles" are strung on a shoestring -- literally. 51 small low-grade silver rings are strung on a black 36" shoelace, which is then folded in half. The halves are hand-stitched together, leaving a loop at one end. The plastic ends are cut off and a button sewn on -- voila, a closure. The three dangles are attached with jump rings. Coins from 1969 and 1970 are soldered to silver rings and also attached -- the writing is in Arabic script, so no hints about origin there.

More expensive jewelry like this might have enamel inlays as the "jewels." But this one was made with bits of colored glass, backed with a scrap of silver foil. The smaller "gems" are glass roughly faceted. If you turn the dangles over you can see that two of the dangles are backed by crude tin (zinc, aluminum?) cut-outs, the third (far left) from a heavier chunk of metal. Maybe the brassy little curlicues were made from bullet casings... who knows.

I searched my books for a source. It is most likely from Afghanistan but not quite clear which tribe. Tons of jewelry come from Afghanistan, simply because it is so disrupted. Where the equilibrium is disturbed, the exports explode. Either people are selling off family treasures for hard cash (or having it looted) or cottage industries spring up to sell souvenirs to invaders and occupiers (see also my essay "What Little Girls Make," about war rugs from Afghanistan).

I love the idea of people using whatever is available to make their art. I think it's now referred to as "upcycling." Shoelaces, coins, scrap metal... But I'm also sighing. The person who made this necklace wasn't being "green." He or she was simply making do. Surviving.

Jan 3, 2012