In Yemen, the art of silversmithing reach a remarkable level, comparing with other crafts, and it can be identified by it´s own technicques and icons. It´s one of the most recognized and famous arts from the country.
The variety of bracelets, rings , necklaces, head ornaments, and the demand of the population for this items, shows the importance given to this craft. Either in rural areas or in major cities, the jewellery was the most important part of the dowries and personal possesions of both Jewish and Muslim women.
The jewellery making was mostly a jewish profession even in far areas like the Hadramaut valley, but mostly in the Sana´a, Saada or Dhamar, where most of the jewish population used to live.
We can find several reasons for this, one is the muslim reticence to work precious metals, also that crafts were not highly respected on the Yemeni society; and finally the believe that if a foreigner makes the protective objects like jewels, that gives a special blessing to the jewel (baraka).
Yemeni jews trace the origin of silversmithing in the country to the times of King Salomon, when the first jews came to Yemen due to commercial relations with Arabia. Some other Yemeni traditions trace the jews in Yemen from the times of the destruction of the First Temple.
The importance of this community in the jewellery making is evident with the dissapearence of good quality jewels after the Flying Carpet operation, that took most of the Yemeni Jews to Israel in the 1949-1950. We know that the ruler Imam at that moment, Ahmed, asked the Jews to teach the art of silversmithing to Muslims. But the tradition of centuries can rarely be taught in a few years.
The technical know-how was passed generation to generation. Most of the silversmiths were rabbis that dedicated time to the sacred scriptures, and also they knew the symbolic meaning of each of the motifs, and the connection with biblical and kabalistic texts.
Some of the jewish techniques like filigree or granulation required precision, patience and hours of work. This techniques have been continued by jewish silversmiths after their arrival in Israel.
The opening of the country and it´s westernization generated a change in the women´s taste for jewels, reducing the demand for traditional jewellery, that now is most sought after by collectors.