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From dowries to traditional dances: Ibizan jewellery

From dowries to traditional dances: Ibizan jewellery

Traditional Ibizan dress is a product of the isolation and self-sufficiency that characterised daily life on the island centuries ago.

By making use of the available raw materials, such as wool, flax and hemp, and later incorporating new materials such as cotton, Ibizan textiles were usually produced using domestic looms, normally after a day of hard work.

The most traditional dress for women in the country was the black gonella, a dress that was made up of numerous skirts. Others incorporated colour and subtle patterns, and the most elaborate were in white and were reserved for festivals and festeig, a courting ritual where suitors would court a young girl one at a time, in the presence of the mother. It is within this context that one of the major elements of popular Ibizan culture would come to be: the emprendada. With designs that can be traced back to the 18th century, the emprendada is a collection of jewels that the woman would wear along with her gala dress, to be displayed as a dowry in front of everyone else and, most importantly, the families of her suitors.

In order to preserve the unity of the farm estates, families would not usually leave land to their daughters as an inheritance. The oldest son (s’hereu) would have the first claim to the land, so as compensation the daughters would receive the emprendada, which was not a bad deal at all. More and more pieces would be added and increase in quality over time as the family prospered. As such, the emprendada would serve as a means to measure the wealth of each family. Once the woman had gotten married, the emprendada would be used as an ornament of social prestige at festivals, ceremonies and religious events.

The set of jewels that makes up the emprendada is the result of intricate work with jewels, stones and precious metals. It is usually made up of a variety of necklaces, chains, crosses, medallions and brooches.

There are usually two different types of emprendadas. The oldest type is made of silver and red coral, which supposedly gave it protective properties. The red coral is obtained from the sea floor around the island and the silver comes from the old mines of Sant Carles (s’argentera). It is made from several rows of coral necklaces, like rosaries, interwoven and fastened with silver mesh. From this hangs a silver filigree cross and a joia, a glass locket that contains an image of the Virgin Mary and is richly decorated with precious stones, chains and filigrees. Sometimes agustinades may be added as well, another smaller set of necklaces made of coral and mother-of-pearl, worn by men.

A more modern version of the emprendada is made of gold overlaid with filigrees, and is basically made up of a necklace with two rows of biconical pieces (the collaret), a pendant in the shape of a cross with a rosette in the centre (the joia), several rows of cordoncillo (a type of chain) and a pair of rectangular decorated pins.

The emprendada, which is handed down from mother to daughter, formed part of a larger collection of intricately crafted ornaments, which included earrings, cufflinks and rings. The earrings were also worn on special occasions and were usually made from gold with fine filigree. The rings (anellada) were given to the woman by her husband after they got married, and the husband would have himself inherited them from his mother if he was the eldest son (hereu). If he was not the eldest son, he would have to buy it himself at a significant cost. Tradition demanded that the husband give up to 24 rings to his wife, that could be made of gold and silver. The motifs on the rings could vary, from the segell (sigil) of the family in question, reserved for the larger rings which were normally square-shaped, to decorative features, such as flowers or chains with a little heart and a key, that were usually used on the smaller rings. It was common to wear three rings on each finger, with the exception of the thumb. All of these would be elaborately finished by expert goldsmiths.

The tradition of master jewellers lives on with a small but select group of artisans who work to ensure that the light of this cultural heritage shines on.