Explore the stories of three women who are helping to revive the longstanding tradition of silversmithing in Oman.
This display introduces you to three entrepreneurial Omani women silversmiths from different generations: Tuful Ramadan (1949–2021), Mahfoudha al-Balushi (b. 1956) and Fatma al Najjar (b. 1992). Their beautiful work is showcased through objects on display – and their inspirational personal testimonies highlight their knowledge and technical skills, as well as their dedication and passion for their profession in a region where silversmithing is usually done by men.
Since the 1970s, there has been a decline in demand for silver jewellery in Oman as tastes shifted to locally-made and imported gold jewellery. The last couple of decades, however, have witnessed a revival of the craft as attested by the work of Ramadan, al-Balushi and al Najjar, who have adapted centuries-old silver jewellery designs and motifs to contemporary tastes and fashions.
This display presents the results of fieldwork carried out from 2019–2022 as part of an ongoing, all-women-led research project launched by the British Museum in collaboration with scholars from Oman, Canada and the USA. The personal interviews with the silversmiths and examples of their handcrafted jewellery are complemented by scientific analysis conducted at the British Museum using a digital microscope and scanning electron microscope to present close-up images of the pieces. These images reveal the variety of production techniques, tools and skills used by the women to create their intricate designs, furthering our understanding of Oman's silversmithing heritage. To illustrate both continuity and innovation in design, the display also features iconic examples of 1950s Omani silver jewellery from the world-class collection at the British Museum and a magnificent indigo-coloured dress from Dhofar embellished with silver beads.
You can visit The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world (Room 43) to view more examples of Omani silver jewellery and handle historic pieces at the Hands on desk.
These displays were made possible by the support of The Asahi Shimbun Company, longstanding corporate sponsors of the British Museum. The Asahi Shimbun is a Japanese leading newspaper and the company also provides a substantial information service via the internet. The company has a century-long tradition of philanthropic support, notably staging key exhibitions in Japan on art, culture and history from around the world. In addition to the Asahi Shimbun Displays, The Asahi Shimbun Company is a committed supporter of the British Museum touring exhibition programme in Japan, and funder of The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati sculpture in Room 33a.