Afghanistan: coins on a shoestring

The impulse to beautify ourselves is innate to humans. As soon as we figured out how to drill holes in shells and twist plant fiber into string, we began wearing necklaces. And clever as we are, we also began repurposing everyday items into adornment.

Here’s an example. This 20″ necklace from Afghanistan was constructed on a shoestring, literally. As I see it, someone folded the shoelace in half to form a loop, sewed it together lengthwise, and attached the clipped ends to a button.

287 Afghanistan

I have no notes on where I got this. I think it was part of small trove of Central Asia beads that Jim found. Off on his rounds, he got to talking with a local jewelry shop owner about ethnic beads. The owner had a bunch that he traded with a customer but didn’t know anything about. Jim bought the lot. This was one of them. I identified it quickly as typical from the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan — possibly Pashtoon. But that’s about it.

The round elements are old coins, minted with Persian/Urdu script. I can’t discern any dates — although I did learn that the heart shape on the reverse of the big coins means 5 (see left side of top photo).

Coins are typically .90 silver — good and heavy but fairly easy to transform. Jewelry made with old coins always packs a double whammy of excitement with me. Why? Maybe because coins have already collected so much spirit, passed hand to hand, traded for this and that, saved, spent, tossed to a beggar as alms. Then they get a second life, away from the public square, to the intimacy of a woman’s neck.

But the story continues, unspoken. Did the beloved die amid tribal vendettas? Was she among the thousands of refugees who fled into Pakistan when the Soviets invaded? Did she hock her silver for food? Her necklace found safe harbor, traveling from hand to hand, till it reached upstate New York. Did she?

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