Jewelry from the Middle East has fascinated me for a long time. I am intrigued with the designs used and the meanings behind the designs. My collection of Middle Eastern jewelry includes a variety of medallions, talismans, amulets, and eye beads. Hands and jewelry with a hand as a part of the design are some of my favorites.
The tradition and belief in the evil eye is an ages old belief that is deeply embedded in the culture. The belief is that someone can cause ill to happen to another person (or that person’s property or business) by a curse or even by the way someone looks at another person. As a result, various protections have come into existence, all intended to ward off the effects of the evil eye. Many of these protections are “eyes” themselves.
The Evil Eye is a pervasive symbol throughout the Middle East. Eye beads are worn as jewelry or included in the design of a piece of jewelry. Eye beads are also pinned to clothing in an inconspicuous place. A baby may have an eye bead or charm attached to its clothing. One such charm is masallah, usually attached at the shoulder of a new born’s garment.
I’m showing a couple of photos of “eye beads” and a strand of eye beads from Turkey. In addition to jewelry, evil eyes are woven into fabrics, embroidered onto garments, and used to decorate household furnishings and utensils.
The hand symbol with its five fingers can also be used for the same purpose, but the significance varies in different cultures. Sometimes the hand includes an eye in the design. All these things are considered amulets. Amulets are often placed in boxes or other containers that can also hold charms, prayers, or other forms of protection.
I will do a follow up article on designs and processes used in making Middle Eastern jewelry and show some of the hands I’ve collected over the years.