Enamelled Gold Pendants
Egypt or Syria
Fatimid, 10th-11th century CE
Materials and technique
Gold and cloisonné enamel
Length 3.2 cm, 2.9 cm, and 2.6 cm, respectively
These pendants reflect the superb craftsmanship of goldsmiths working in Egypt and Syria during the Fatimid period (969-1171 CE), especially in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The crescent (hilal) shape was particularly popular. Semi-precious stones or pearls may have been suspended from the loops on each pendant, which was made of typical Fatimid box construction featuring filigree and gold strips embellished with granulation. The colourful cloisonné-enamel plaques pose a separate issue. The scarce evidence for mediaeval Islamic enamelled objects and the bountiful contemporary descriptions of Byzantine enamelled jewellery in the Islamic world such as those in the Cairo Geniza have led scholars to wonder if the cloisonné-enamel plaques in Fatimid jewellery were actually ready-made Byzantine enamel plaques imported into Egypt and Syria. A pendant in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, stylistically similar to the present crecents, is presented as further support for this thesis by Marilyn-Jenkins Madina. The enamel plaque in the Metropolitan Museum pendant was not secured to the object's structure; rather, the pendant was constructed first and the plaque was adhered to the surface afterward via an adhesive, a curious technical oversight for a talented craftsperson, unless the plaque was bought separately. Not surprisingly, another Fatimid gold pendant in the Metropolitan Museum is missing its enamelled plaque (Jenkins-Madina 1997, pp. 420-21).
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