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Oman, circa 1890
Diameter 4.75” (12cm) max. Depth 2.5” (6cm)
Stock No. 9792
In the 19th century, Oman held territories on the island of Zanzibar along with other areas on the eastern coast of Africa and was a dominant commercial power in the entire region, significant trade being between Gujarat and Oman and Oman and Zanzibar and eastern Africa. Although a great many Arabs had migrated to both India and Africa as a result of this trading during the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was the decline of the Oman economy in the middle of the 19th century that saw many thousands of Omani families move to Zanzibar.
It is thus that the influences of both Oman and Gujarat are predominant in the silverwork and jewellery that came from eastern Africa throughout the 19th century, whether it was made by the skilled Swahili craftsmen from the area or imported from Oman or India to meet the needs of the Indian and Arabian expatriate clientele. Although there are suggestions that this form of anklet was worn by slaves at market to enhance their looks, such ornamental anklets were already being worn across colonial Africa and the Muscat region of Oman. Omani silversmiths were renowned for creating very fine silverwork with top quality silver.
Made in two hinged sections joined by a silver pin, these anklets were either made from sheet silver and were therefore hollow (known as antal) or filled with base metal and therefore solid and heavy. It was the latter that became known as Zanzibar bracelets. The flatter side of the anklet is worn against the inner ankle and the piece is secured by a large silver pin. Photographs of the Princess of Zanzibar and Oman, Sayyida Salme (1844 – 1924) show her wearing similar anklets, especially the one taken in 1862 just before her marriage to the German businessman Heinrich Reute.