What is Berber (Amazigh) Jewellery?

What is Berber (Amazigh) Jewellery?

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The Amazigh, (plural Imazighen) are commonly referred to as Berber. They are an ethnic group of people from North Africa and West Africa. Specifically, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania.

What is Berber (Amazigh) Jewellery?

The Amazigh, (plural Imazighen) are commonly referred to as Berber. They are an ethnic group of people from North Africa and West Africa. Specifically, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania.

Berber Jewellery History

In southern Morocco, a woman helps a young bride to put on her clothes and her jewellery, while others surround her, singing songs and performing rituals to Warru. Warru is the God of joy and happiness, and the people ask for blessings for the couple to make them happy.  This is done while surrounding the bride to be's neck with an intricate necklace made out of amber, coral and smooth agate-coloured stones like carnelian. For the bride, it will be the first time she has worn it, and it represents wealth, prestige, and also acts as a slogan for the tribe to which it belongs.

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Berber Bracelets

Berber women wear silver bracelets that are thick and can be layered in sets on their wrists, and apart from adornment, they also symbolize strength and vitality, as they're used to defend herself too. They are weapons!

This particular one, the horned bracelet: Abzg n iqurraïn has a 12 point star as the middle section and is very heavy especially as the woman might wear one on each wrist at approximately 1.5kg each.

le Bracelet à Douze Pointes
le Bracelet à Douze Pointes / “Abzg n iqurraïn” in the Tamaziɣt Berber / copyright © Taco Meeuwsen

Amazigh jewellery exudes the fragrance of the past and the pulse of the present. You cannot help but stand dazzled by the splendour of designs, the warmth of colours and the harmony of details. Elegant masterpieces that respond to a passion for colour, especially those necklaces and earrings that move with every gesture or a breeze of soft air, so that they came in the form of birds and butterflies, easy to wear, and combining femininity and indulgence. Bearing the Arabesque character, in addition to the high quality, meticulous craftsmanship and elaborate workmanship that became the characteristic of all these groups and ensembles.

The True Value of Amazigh Jewellery

Antique Moroccan Amazigh jewellery contributes to recording popular memory. The items are deep, enjoyable and sensual, touching the eye and the mind and devouring all the senses. The jewellery is a piece of art whose value increases with the passage of time, because it is rich in touches that combine colours,  separate at times, and close at other times, which contribute to raising eyebrows due to the charm and lustre they add.

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Amazigh Robe Fibulae from Southern Morocco.

Moroccan silver mixed with enamelled metal and brass, resin stones.

Fibula have a multi purpose role. As well as decorative they are used for symbolism and function.  They are usually worn on the chest, on the right side if the women is unmarried and worn on the left means her heart is taken. The dimensions of the fibula worn by Amazigh women indicate their social status.

But the true value of traditional jewellery lies in its liberation from its material evaluation, because it is one of the tributaries of the authenticity and historical depth of the Berbers (Imazighen) in Moroccan heritage.

Characteristics of Berber Jewellery

These are, in brief, the characteristics of the traditional industry for which Berbers are known in southern Morocco, and the mouths of the High and Small Atlas Mountains. These areas are often dominated by the obsession of rooting and the will to excel. They reel between the awareness of heritage and the ambition of modernity, through the digging of an innate knowledge rich in craftsmanship techniques to record the popular memory. So it seems resistant to an intruder or adventurous in trying to approach it. He does not come out of it unscathed except when his senses escape from him, and he becomes an eternal imagination in front of the violence of surprise, as if he is in front of miraculous artefacts, strange pictures and magic mysteries.

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Whereas it is customary to look at the bottom of a painting to identify the artist by his signature, with jewellery, which is like a mobile painting that a person might carry in his hands, the makers are artists unknown who do not leave a name or signature.

Amazigh jewellery holds details and glimpses from the East and the West, which are mixed by the artist's hand in rare masterpieces, printed with Amazigh impulses, preserving her own style and expression, which searches for the charm of colours and the accuracy of shapes to highlight non-circulated aesthetic values.

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Amazigh motifs enjoy a high innate sensitivity, combining different fields of art, and exquisite geometric shapes with all the popular memory, such as tattoos, symbols and stars, descending from their skies so that the contemplator of these artefacts feels as if they are about to celebrate a special occasion.

Decipher The Secrets

When concepts betray us, what other than art can help us? How do we enter the depths of minerals and read what is in them? From where can we explore its depths and decipher its secrets, to cultivate beauty in our living space, and bring life to our heritage, narrating the flow of the course of history in colour and light and telling of the historical connection between civilizations and the history of the culture of the senses?

The function of jewellery is not only a decoration, as it tells the myths of the past and the traditions of an ancient civilization more symbolic than actual, and some of them leave an unforgettable trace. Perhaps the example circulating here considers the acquisition of these antiques, such as searching for lost treasure. Especially with the emergence of the phenomenon of foreigners who roam the countryside and villages, in search for these models that are almost lost. As well as tourists flocked to rural areas, running behind deciphering the mysterious magic that surrounds the jewellery.

Berber Hair Clip

Berber Hair Clip

In Amazigh culture the jewellery provides a certain transparency as it speaks of the personality and wealth of the wearer. They are characterized by strength in terms of the elements of composition that are rich in stylistic and creative specificity, whether in terms of subject or technology, as innate impulses that return us to the spontaneity of the sense of the beauty of objects and things. Refining the visual taste and elevating the creative vision in order to illuminate the depths and flirt with the imagination with excitement.

Psychology of Colour

They are inspired by mythology and perhaps here lies the secret of their unique personality. The irresistible purity, and perhaps the truest expression that can be described by it, is found in the scale of the values ​​of minerals, which say that they are transparent like diamonds, authentic like gold, and honest as precious stones. Each colour used has a symbology for example;

- Green is a symbol of youth, emotion, and a good life.

- Blue is a symbol of calm and peace.

- Red symbolizes warmth, love, courage and strength.

In Morocco we believe that the eye needs colour as much as it needs light, and the colours leave a special effect on the wearer and a special rhythm that prolongs feelings and emotions, as they elevate, calm, excite, relieve, soothe, amaze and dazzle our psyche. But colours often act a mirror reflecting these feelings, because the psychological expression of coloured gemstones takes place from deep inside and balances our emotions.

Berber Jewellery Symbols Explained

The arts of engraving and decoration depends on the various characteristics of the method of creation - stretching, smelting, and casting in prepared moulds. It is taken into account the choice of metal with a reasonable choice based on its limited or infinite flexibility in composition and synthesis. Amazigh art was known for its sharp self-styled characteristic of what we might call metallic elegance, which combines tenderness and simplicity in support of a sense of high taste that reflects a flavour of nobility and elegance that exudes memory, the glory of history, and the splendour of nature. So it cannot be considered merely folklore. Instead the stories, myths and beliefs brew in the memory, igniting figures and symbols.

The circular shapes mean sanctity, because women are associated with sacred shapes such as the sun and the moon, and we also find palm frond decorations, which are a symbol indicating production, abundance, prosperity, and fertility. The palm tree is the tree of life that symbolizes flowing water in popular memory even among Arabs.

Perhaps all of these symbols testify beyond a reasonable doubt that the Amazighs fused, responded and joined forces with many cultures and civilizations that enriched their heritage in one way or another.

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Amber Resin Beads - Loban are traditionally used as wedding dowry. The wedding is called Tamghra which means the invitation.

Ornaments for Amazigh women used to symbolize tribal affiliation, we find them mostly in silver in the countryside and in the countryside, and in gold in cities, but unlike jewellery among the Arabs, they take large sizes and prominent geometric shapes, such as the triangle, circle, deviated squares and rhombuses, in which inscriptions and decorations wear the shapes of wicks. These are strings of gold or silver braided or welded that leave their original stamp on the metal, and make history look beautiful no matter how old it is, as if the bracelets came from antique museums and overflow with dreams.

In view of the great importance that people attach to the appearance of adornment, it increases day by day, not to distinguish in popular circles between delicate stones and precious stones, while we find among specialists only three types of gemstones, which are diamonds, emeralds and sapphires and this mixing seems to result. On the human desire to impart an aura to his person, because wearing these jewellery makes one enjoy the attention of others and raises ones social status, and for this reason jewellery today has become a witness to family joys and events, or a tribal symbol or a souvenir laden with feelings in which the emotional or moral value occupies a great position that makes it shine more beautifully in the eyes of others and increases its artistic and aesthetic value.

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