The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection



Morocco or Algeria
20th Century

A fibula is an ornamental clasp used to fasten clothing, a function similar to that of the modern safety pin. This type of item has had a long history of use throughout the Old World, the earliest reported occurrence dating to 3,000 BCE. in Greece. Decorative fibulae are still an important element of the traditional costume among Berber of North Africa. The fibulae worn by Berber women typically consist of two clasps connected with a long chain. Symbolic designs are often used to decorate the fibulae clasps and provide protection to the wearer. Stylized symbols of animals thought to have magical properties (e.g., jackal, turtle, snake) are common decorative themes. The size and weight of the fibulae worn by Berber women indicate status and women of different groups can be identified by the fibula they wear. This Moroccan fibula is worked in silver and richly patterned with green, blue and yellow cloisonné enamel. A red glass cabochon and cut pieces adorn the square pendant and chains and three Islamic coins are suspended from the bottom of the piece.