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  • Janis Raisen

New Exhibition—Jewelry Making: Past & Present—Sparkles and Dazzles

House Ring, 3D print with a sterling silver cast, designed by Inbar Shahak. Shahak is one of 45 Israeli artists featured in the exhibition. (Photo: Shay Ben Efraim)

Jewelry is a timeless, universal language.

The Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem has opened a new exhibition, Jewelry Making: Past & Present that runs until November 16. Curated by Dr. Iris Fishof, the exhibition uses jewelry as a vehicle to create dialogue between religion and culture, the past and present, the ancient and the modern, and various types of metalworking, jewelry making, artifacts, and precious stones.

The exhibition takes the visitor through hundreds of years of sacred, delicate, and exquisite jewelry and artifacts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and contemporary pieces created by Israeli artists inspired by the Museum's collection.

Nadim Sheiban, director of the Museum for Islamic Art, explains that the exhibition's mission is to create a dialogue between the prominent religions in Jerusalem—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—and to add a deeper layer to the conversation with contemporary pieces.

The first part of the exhibition examines sacred and religious items from the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It offers a glimpse into the types of ancient jewelry, vessels and items used in ritual practices for each religion, each telling their story about history, culture and tradition.

Items in the above Christian display have never before been shown to the public. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

In partnership with the Terra Sancta Museum, the Museum for Islamic Art presents this special collection of ecclesiastical metalwork from the 16th-19th Century belonging to the Franciscan Order, and displayed to the public for the first time. For centuries, Christians across the Mediterranean sent money and various sacred items to assist the Franciscans.

Pectoral Cross, Portugal, 1825. Silver, stones, diamonds. (Photo: Shay Ben Efraim)

Items from the museum collection seen in the Islamic display. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

The Islamic display (seen above) features several beautiful items and artifacts from the museum's collection. It includes a brass candlestick, and a mosque lamp. Also featured here is a small jewelry box and pitcher, both hidden treasures from Iran, dating back to the 11th-12th Century.

The Jewish display is from the Willian Gross Family Collection. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

Earring, Djerba Tunisia, 1905 – 191 Gold with stones, Gross Family Collection. (Photo: Ardon Barhama)

The intricate work of art seen above is one of many beautiful pieces from the William Gross Family Collection, which can be viewed in the Jewish display. Many of the amulets are from Islamic countries, mostly made by Jewish goldsmiths, which shed light on the culture and way of life of Jews living in Islamic countries at the time, as well as highlighting the shared love of folk art between the two religions.

Esther scroll, Izmir, Turkey, 1873, Gold, pearls, parchment. (Photo: Ardon Barhama)

The Esther Scroll, from the William Gross Family Collection, although not a piece of wearable jewelry, is made with gold and pearls, making it a precious jewel in-and-of-itself. It is another unique piece of art that sits inside the Jewish display case.

Connecting the Past With the Present

The second part of the exhibition presents contemporary pieces created by 45 Israeli artists. They were invited to sift through the museum's collection of jewelry and artifacts that date back to the 6th century, according to Idit Sharoni, the museum curator.

Each artist chose a piece that inspired them to create a contemporary version, not only the visual aspect, but to update its role or symbol in present times within social or cultural contexts.

"An interesting part of the jewelry story is to take pieces of jewelry from the past and make them into something current, so they will be relevant to our time, so the artists of today experience, see and feel the same way about a piece of jewelry that was made 200 years ago, 600 years ago, 1000 years ago. Suddenly, an old piece of jewelry comes to life in a different way than something we always saw in the display case of the museum— suddenly there is new meaning," said Sheiban.

Textile jewelry designer, Inbar Shahak, standing beside the case that displays the ring she designed for the exhibition. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

Inbar Shahak, a textile jewelry designer, is one of the artists featured in the exhibition. She created a ring, called House Ring, which appears in the bridal section. It has intricate details and elegance, inspired by a ring from Morocco that looks like a house with a pointed top. It made her think about what a home represents.

Inbar Shahak's inspiration for her House Ring. (Photo: Inbar Shahak)

She began designing 3D modern houses, and her final creation is a ring that shows the inside of a house in great detail. It explores the different theoretical implications of what it would mean to have your house in the palm of your hand.

House Ring, 3D print with a sterling silver cast, designed by Inbar Shahak, (Photo: Shay Ben Efraim).

"I am truly excited to participate in this exhibition among such an amazing list of artists. For me, it is my first time to exhibit in a museum in Israel, and I am honored to be included with all the artists whom I follow and admire their work," Shahak told Israel: The Sites & Sights.

Fertility Amulet, Morocco, Western Anti-Atlas, 19th century. Bead with hanging coins. (Photo: Shay Ben Efraim)

Another artist, Rill Greenfeld, designed a modern fertility amulet based on the exquisite fertility bead and amulet from Morocco seen in the above photo.

Fertility Amulet, Rill Greenfeld, Fertility Now, 2019. (Photo: Shay Ben Efraim)

Her creation is actually a case for birth control pills. The case is designed to be a traditional amulet against the evil eye in keeping with the theme of the amulet part of the original piece, but instead of using it in the hopes of becoming more fertile, she tweaked the concept to represent the modern practice of planned pregnancy.

The third section of the exhibition features a special display of Yemenite jewelry of the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza.

Two necklaces worn by the late Israeli singer, Ofra Haza, are seen here and are part of the display of her jewelry designed by Ben-Zion David. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

Ben-Zion David, an eighth generation Yemenite silversmith, created the necklaces seen in the above photo, and most of the other items in the special Ofra Haza display in the exhibition. The display showcases traditional Yemenite jewelry designed by David and worn by Ofra Haza between 1992 and 1998. David continues to carry on the authentic art of true Yemenite silversmith at his studio and shop in Jaffa.

A Bedouin veil from the Sinai Peninsula. (Photo: Janis Raisen)

A few striking pieces from the Bedouin tribe in the Sinai Peninsula were also given a special display. One of those items, bright, colorful and artistic can be seen in the above photo.

Jewelry is a language that transcends religion, culture and time. It has always been a magnet and a universal love, which is reflected in the exhibition.



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