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Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem

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Mother-of-Pearl carving has been a Bethlehem tradition since the art was introduced to the city by Franciscan friars from Damascus during the 14th century.[1]

Bethlehem's position as an important Christian city has for centuries attracted a constant stream of pilgrims. This generated much local work and income, also for women, including making mother-of-pearl souvenirs. According to Weir, Bethlehem women's employment in the mother-of-pearl industry goes back at least to the seventeenth century.[2] It was noted by Richard Pococke, who travelled there in 1727. [3]

Previously, most of the oysters for the mother-of-pearl supply came from the Red Sea. Today, however, Australia, California, New Zealand and Brazil are the main exporters.[1]

The first exhibition in the west of mother-of-pearl artifacts from Palestine was at The World Fair in New York in 1852. Two brothers, Giries and Ibrahim Mansur, exhibited their work and were a great success.[4]

Present day products, include crosses, earrings, brooches,[1] maps of Palestine,[5] and picture frames.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bethlehem municipality website
  2. Weir, p.128, 280, n.30
  3. A Description of the East and Some other Countries, p. 436
  4. Tourist Products,, 23.01.2007, Source:"Bethlehem, The Immortal Town" by Giries Elali
  5. Maps of Palestine
  6. Picture frames


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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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