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Africa Direct

Ethiopian Necklace Telsum Africa

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Title Ethiopian Necklace Telsum Africa
Materials Silver (unknown metal content), stone, glass or resin,
Made In Ethiopia
Approximate Age 20th century telsum and beads
Overall Condition Good. Some of our beads have traveled at least three continents, and have graced numerous owners. Small chips, corrosion, and pitting are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.
Object Size 4-19 mm diameter.
Necklace Length 20 inches. See picture with penny for size comparison (US penny is 19mm diameter).

Additional information: Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest continuous Christian traditions in the world, and Ethiopian silversmiths produce religious jewelry as an expression of that tradition. Star of David pendants are worn around the neck and emphasize the relationship of Christian Ethiopians to Israel, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Additional Information:Triangular or crescent-shaped prayer boxes, called telsum are worn for their protective properties. The triangular specimens in particular are believed to fend off evil spirits and the “evil eye,” whereas crescent-shaped amuletic boxes are worn as a protection against the spells of the crescent moon. Square, rectangular and irregularly shaped pendants are also manufactured serving similar purposes. Some of these telsum are elaborately decorated and feature granulated designs created with melted silver. Often they are gold washed or gilded. Telsum prayer boxes are traditionally worn as necklaces, strung on purple yarn or strips of cloth. Older specimens were made from silver derived from the Maria Theresa thaler; modern versions are typically made from an amalgam of nickel and alloy.

Recommended Reading: See African Beads: Jewels of a Continent by Evelyn Simak with Carl Dreibelbis, available at Africa Direct.