Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem

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Workers in mother-of-pearl. Photo taken 1900-1920 by American Colony, Jerusalem.
Workers in mother-of-pearl. Photo taken 1900-1920 by American Colony, Jerusalem.

Mother-of-Pearl carving, a traditional handicraft in Bethlehem, is said to have been brought to the city by Franciscan friars from Italy in the 15th century.[1]

Bethlehem's position as an important Christian city has for centuries attracted a constant stream of pilgrims. This generated much local work and income, also for women, including making mother-of-pearl souvenirs. According to Weir, Bethlehem women's employment in the mother-of-pearl industry goes back at least to the seventeenth century.[2] It was noted by Richard Pococke, who travelled there in 1727. [3]

Previously, most of the oysters for the mother-of-pearl supply came from the Red Sea. Today, however, Australia, California, New Zealand and Brazil are the main exporters.[4]

The first exhibition in the west of mother-of-pearl artifacts from Palestine was at The World Fair in New York in 1852. Two brothers, Giries and Ibrahim Mansur, exhibited their work and were a great success.[5]

Present day products, include crosses, earrings, brooches and picture frames.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tourist Products, Palestine-family.net]
  2. ^ Weir, p.128, 280, n.30
  3. ^ A Description of the East and Some other Countries, p. 436
  4. ^ Bethlehem municipality website
  5. ^ Tourist Products, Palestine-family.net, 23.01.2007, Source:"Bethlehem, The Immortal Town" by Giries Elali

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