Saudi Arabia: Why Saudi Women Receive So Much Jewelry

From my personal observations, I think that Saudi women tend to receive more jewelry than women in other places of the world.  In my opinion, they receive jewelry as it is a symbol of love, affection and security.

The young Saudi girl growing up will generally receive her first piece of jewelry when she is less than six months old.  This piece will be either gold or diamond posts placed at the time she gets her ears pierced.  As she grows older, her parents and particularly her father, will continue to add to her jewelry occasion.  On special occasions, she may be the recipient of a ring, bracelet or necklace.

The jewelry in Saudi Arabia is exquisite and also costs much less than elsewhere in the world, taking into account the quality and craftsmanship.

Naturally as the wedding day approaches for the young Saudi woman, it is traditional for her to receive multiple pieces of gold jewelry.  This is her dowry and her security net for herself in the event of any future troubles.  It’s not only the future groom and his family who present gold jewelry to the bride, but other family members and friends may also give her gold jewelry as a gift.

I remember shortly after arriving in Saudi Arabia and receiving pieces of gold jewelry from Saudis to whom I was not related but who were long time friends of my husband.  I felt awkward as an American receiving gold jewelry from someone who I did not know well but my late husband reassured me it was tradition.

The Saudi woman will continue to receive exquisite pieces of jewelry on the special occasions throughout her life.  These occasions will include when she becomes pregnant, when she gives birth and for many women, the husband presents his wife with a new piece of jewelry on Eid al Adha in celebration.

The modern Saudis who do recognize Valentines Day and Mother’s Day will likely give the special women in their life jewelry at those times too.  Men who have had to travel without their wives are known to bring back a present of jewelry.

Saudi women may not flaunt their jewelry collection but they are certainly proud of it.  The more jewelry a Saudi woman has received from her father and her husband is interpreted to illustrate how special and loved she is.

However, there are other times when a woman may receive jewelry that has a mixed message.  If a Saudi man feels he has wronged his wife, he may also try to make amends by surprising her with jewelry.  This can go from the man who was late for a family function to the man who choose to take another wife.  He believes that he can soften the blow and disappointment with jewelry.

Some Saudi women who are in an unhappy marriage may negotiate for acquisition of more jewelry.  The Saudi woman knows that in a time of emergency the gold jewelry can be converted to cash in a time of extreme need.

While the Saudi woman sees her jewelry as her security blanket, the American woman at times may discourage her husband from giving her jewelry.  It really comes down to not just the individual, but the culture in which one was raised.

Let me end this post by asking American Bedu readers, if a “wrong” has been committed by a man, is jewelry a satisfactory means to make amends for the wrong?

About these ads

54 Responses

  1. With respect, Carol, the custom is directly related to Indian customs, where the Indian wife only inherited the husband’s wealth in the jewelry she wore.
    Due to the harsher environment of Arabian life, during ancient times, the bride would be given a wealth to inherit (as local customs varied from current Islamic law (and today does as well, to some highly variable extent)).
    I actually did an analysis, many years ago, on this very subject.
    If you wish, I can resurrect the research that backs the cultural adaptation of another culture.

    For our 25th anniversary, I suggested that I would coat my wife as an Arabian bride (she already SAW what an Indian bride wore). She initially accepted, until she saw her first Arabian bride. As my wife has herniated discs, she declined immediately after witnessing said bride.
    Though, for Arabs, SILVER was the precious metal of choice, until VERY recent times.
    The Bedouin respected silver greatly, as gold was nearly unobtainable. Semi-precious stones were also well respected. Gold and precious stones were for royalty.

  2. Thank you wzrd1 !!! I was about to write the same thing that you posted, that this is an old Indian custom!! If you haven’t noticed Carol, alot of Saudi jewelry is influenced by indian jewlery. Indian women are definitely showered with gold jewelry, especially on their wedding day

  3. Btw wzrd1, if you don’t mind , I would love to read your research on this topic!!

  4. “In my opinion, they receive jewelry as it is a symbol of love, affection and security.”

    If I were a Saudi women, I would be offended by this and more so by this. “As my wife has herniated discs, she declined immediately after witnessing said bride.”

  5. “The young Saudi girl growing up will generally receive her first piece of jewelry when she is less than six months old.” Actually, most have their ears pierced in the hospital after being born and at their sabea are gifted gold coins and jewelry.

  6. no but its still better to get something when the “wrong” has been committed by the man as compared to not getting anything at all, like in western countries, where the blow is given by saying “we need to talk”, “we should take a break”, “i think its not working” and thats it :p

  7. I don’t like heavy gold jewellary and i’m indian — so you can imagine the issues i face. I completely understand this thirst for gold and the gifting and the way it’s portrayed as asset, but i dont’ agree much. I have quite a bit of gold sitting happily in the bank never worn and never shall be by me :-) i don’t think i can sell them ( maybe i could now since the price of gold seems to have gone up exponentially) but they are all gifts or something my parents bught or some such thing..

    I sometimes buy gold – Bars / american eagle etc., as investment them i don’t have any issues parkingint he bank :-) purely business no sentiments.

    each to her own i guess, for the life of me i can’t relate to the decked up brides, saudi, indian whatever… they look like walking advtertisements for a jewellary store… why not wear just 1 piece to suit the dress elegantly why cart the whole load around your body??? oh well guess diff women have diff needs.

  8. I meant no slight, I only mentioned a shared cultural tradition between Arabs and Indians. That tradition began in the Arab world after trade with India began.
    As for my wife’s herniated discs, it is a question of the massive amount of gifted gold, SHE had said it, I merely repeated it. Not as a slight, but relating the amount of gold worn. She also had related that the young bride was literally staggering under the mass of jewelry she was wearing.

  9. Yes; having lived in India, I’m well aware that the giving of gold is an Indian (and Pakistani) tradition. However, since the focus of this blog is on Saudi I choose to write about the Saudi tradition.

    I know when a woman receives the jewelry as gifts she usually puts it on but I’ve never seen a woman wearing so much gold that it was truly unslightly.

    I remember one time Abdullah wanted to buy me a thick gold belt. That was the one time I put down my foot. It was not to my taste plus I would have been scared to go out wearing so much gold like that!!

  10. I must admit, the quality and craftsmanship is a bit bewildering, when first visiting a jewelry souq. I have yet to see anything even slightly similar, in terms of range of high quality jewelry in the US. Never saw any item under 18 karat, as well.

  11. All women in the world love jewellry and the most,,, GOLD.. Saudi women are lucky to grow up with gold in her closet.

  12. Personally I don’t want jewellery. I will pick out what I like. As for receiving jewellery to correct a wrong …. I can’t be bought. Material things don’t mean that much to me.

  13. I’l take the ” we need to talk” ANYDAY over guilt gold. thank you.. if something is not working in our relationship or is making one of the partners happy I’d much rather be aware of it and either take steps to correct the wrong or let it go or walk away whichever is apt. But my a gift if it’s spontaneous, something you think i would love, something cute something that brings a smile on my face .. not something to cover up guilt or make amends. a simple sorry will do for that.

  14. @radha, i dont think u got the meaning of ”we need to talk”, its actually not for talking, its just to tel the other person that he/she is not required anymore, believe me u would prefer gold over that

  15. This really is a very informative article! I have learnt a lot about saudi culture since I joined american bedu blog.

    After reading just a few comments here on this article and other articles, sorry but I noticed that there is this misguided tendency to evaluate other groups/cultures according to the values and standards of their own ethniticity. Especially with the conviction that one’s own ethnic group is superior to the other groups :)-

  16. I tend to prefer the look of silver to gold, and I’m not much of a jewelry person.

  17. I personaly find gold very tacky and I dont really like it, in my culture (western) it is not a common thing to do , lol! I imagined myself in the situation of the golden belt! and all i could actually thing was “HELLZ NO!!!”

  18. One can also get some beautiful pieces of white gold which I think is much more striking!

  19. Although I’m not a fan of jewelry, I love to look at it. It is such a wonderful medium for art. I would like to see an Indian or Arab bride decked out for the occasion.

    I bet cross cultural couples struggle with the different ways to express affection. I just read The Beauty School of Kabul. The author married a Saudi man and struggled with his non expression of physical affection.

    I met a woman in Burma who helped her illiterate maids buy gold jewelry. She had previously paid them very well but realized the extra money went to makeup and such. Consequently she figured that helping them buy a necklace was similar to helping them set up a savings account. The gold jewelry for brides must have started with a similar thought. I wonder how much jewelry has been sold to feed children.

  20. Gold jewellery most certainly has been the saving grace for many women who have no access to other money, jobs,etc. It’s a good way to save and much safer than banks I think. I have no problem with women who want/have jewellery. My initial response was to Carol’s question regarding jewellery being an acceptable gift if a man has done wrong. The answer for me is absolutely NO. I find that kind of thing rather demeaning.

  21. I think we know the answer: jewellery is not enough to make amends in a marriage. Not really. It is better that the woman has direct cash in her bank account…invest it instead of lots of gold jewellery. One can’t wear all that jewellery often anyway.

  22. Gold is not only an accessory for most women in Asia and the middle east, it’s more of a sort of secuity investment,especially for the older generations who don’t believe in banks. My baby girl was given her first piece of gold in the form of a brooch shaped like the Arabic word Allah when she was born. And she is yet to hv her ears pierced,but her father has already bought some gold earrings for her. However,i don’t really understand the extremity in gold usage. I believe only te Oscar statue looks decent being guilded head to toe with gold.and what’s up with eating gold nowadays?i watched a program somewhere about having real gold sprinkles on an ice cream sundae in a New York restaurant going at USD1000.now tht is a waste,and i presume not so appetizing.

  23. I think what amazed me the most in regards to acquiring jewelry is the reaction of one Saudi woman when she learned a Saudi had taken a second wife. Her remark was that the first wife will likely get new furniture and some fine jewelry which should keep her satisfied. I was pretty stunned by that reaction and thought it was also very blase to such a life changing situation.

  24. I would never object toa nice piece piece of jewelry from my husbind, :mrgreen: However, in my culture it is not done accepting jewelry from anybody but very close relatives.
    If it was to appease me for the other wife he had acquired I would like a gold knife to cut some bits off.

    I love silver jewelry and have been collecting a lot of ethnic jewelry while I was studying in London. Funny, I was wearing some of it to dinner tonight!
    I am all for looking like a well-decorated Christmas tree.
    Nothing more boring than the Dutch who wear jeans and a sweater everywhere they go, and for any occasion. Bleh!

  25. @ur shadow,
    I still reiterate – i would prefer the ‘let’s talk’ – or ‘ you are no longer reqd’ to here take some gold and shut up and let me do my thing :-)

    if someone doesn’t want you they don’t want you, no amount of gold is going to make that palatable…IMP it’s worse , to say i don’t want you , you are replaced but hey let’s softent he blow with some gold !!!!

    of course i’m not averse to gifts from my husband but like i said they need to be heartfelt not to condone some supposed guilt.

  26. @radha, hmm, its about choosing the lesser evil, i think minimizing the blow still shows he cares a little as compared to not even doing that, so we agree to disagree :)

  27. It’s like blood money and not showing he cares IMHO. Another thing about women being adorned with jewellery by their men … for the men it’s a status symbol. “See how wealthy I am that I can decorate my property”!

  28. I think that trying to pay off the wife with gold because he acquired another sex toy reinforces the ”prostitute-master” relationship in islamic marriage. The woman gets paid for providing sex and babies. if she’s upset he got himself an upgrade she gets paid a bit more and is now supposed to shut up about him cheating on her.

  29. @Aafke-Art, in islamic marriage, a woman can take divorce from her husband whenever she wants so i didn’t get how r u relating it to islamic marriage? like any marriage in the world both can get rid of the other one

  30. Goodness, getting a divorce is easy of course. Looking after oneself after a divorce is not so easy. How does a divorced woman support herself in Saudi? Who will marry her if that’s what she desires?

  31. oh oo.. don’t want to start off a war, all i wanted to say was if it’s a gift given from the heart i will gladly accept it. If it’s to assuage a guilt or make amends. then thank you. I’d much rather get a heartfelt ‘ sorry i will not hurt you again’ .. whichever religion one may be in. this is what i expect out of a marriage..

  32. I was given a watch by an ex after he broke up with me. I ended up giving the watch to someone who left theirs at home one day, and was ecstatic not to have that reminder of him laying around.

    However, I do understand how in some cultures, gold can be a symbol of many different things (love, commitment, security, etc.).

  33. @Dana Islam, I wonder if you’ve ever heard of Platinum? Actually, you are guilty of making the same mistake as all of us which is judge all women of the world by Saudi standards. There is a whole world out there, let me tell ya! I grew up in a culture where women adore Indian type-gold & I loathe it.

  34. UrShadow:

    You confuse caring about a person with using a person. It is nothing more than a payment to continue the use of you (ie, islam equate women to sex toys nothing more). Once a man has an upgrade he is just there really for the sex nothing more. It all about the pu@@y that is generally alot of what religion is all about. How to get it, keep it, use it and control it.

  35. I would also add that while I received nice jewelry gifts from my Saudi in-laws, the differences in style make it impossible for me to wear it, unless I want to be confused with a Christmas tree. I don’t want anything large, and they don’t bring anything small. I am tempted to tell them, “just write me a check.”

    @Urshadow

    I think you are indulging in wishful thinking by stating that an Islamic marriage can be easily terminated by a woman. In the books perhaps. Reality in Muslim-majority country is completely different. People on this forum have plenty of stories of female relatives held captive in miserable marriages.

  36. Am I the only man in this conversation? come on girls give me a break, I am not even married and I can’t afford to give gold as a gift even, what to talk about giving it as a compensation of a bad deed :)

    i have replies to all above comments and I can keep on trying to convince but I don’t think its of any use so i would leave it here, if anyone wants to discuss anything with the intention that they want to understand then I would be more than happy 2 do that, you can contact me through any of the 1-1 discussion channels

    @Carol, i didn’t like one thing about this post, a lot of gold is given in Saudi culture to women, agreed, but 95% of it is not for compensating a bad deed( like from father to daughter, from family as gifts, from relatives and friends as gifts, from hb as honest gift), then y to start a discussion about 5% evil part (where its used for compensation for something wrong) ?

  37. urShadow:

    Maybe the only unmarried man. I actually thought you were another woman who tries to convince everyone that polygomy is a good thing.

    How does a person taking another wife/husband/lover have the blow soften by gold? Explain that.

  38. i would b happy 2 to that, plz share ur preferred 1-1 discussion medium

  39. urShadow:

    Written text either on this site or mine. I am sure there are readers here that would like to hear your assessment.

  40. Yes indeed!

  41. yes it should b written text so that it can b shared with anyone but i wont b able to discuss with interruptions, we can discuss it on any 1-1 medium via text and then u can share it here or on ur site or anywhere else u like

  42. urShadow:

    What you purpose is not discussion it is a lecture. There is a difference.

  43. If you are writing about it here you are not being interrupted. I think you just don’t want to see comments after you write.

  44. @bigstick1, u can say that 1st it would b a lecture coz 1st i would like to present my point of view and then it would become a discussion

    @wenday, c u r already making assumptions about me (about whom u hav no idea), not good :)

    Anyway, this was just my suggestion/offer, if u girls don’t like it, we can drop it right here, it would save me time :p

  45. Why don’t you put it in a word or pdf doc and then send it to American Bedu.

    I tend to think I am dealing either with a condescending juvenile brat or a narcissistic who likens women to girls.

  46. :D ur judgement, ur choice, wont make any difference 2 me :p was just waiting for ur response, wont b following this post anymore

  47. “How does a person taking another wife/husband/lover have the blow soften by gold? Explain that.” Ask Kobe Bryant’s wife! :-)

  48. Typical arrogant male. If you can’t have your say and it be final, you don’t want to play anymore. If you comment on a public post, then you must be prepared to be rebutted. Also it’s very rude of you to propose to remove the discussion off-site.

  49. Donna:

    I doubt seriously that it soften any blow. I think at this point the relationship has changed to a business proposition if you know what I mean.

    urShadow:

    Bye now :).

  50. I do agree that the majority of times gold is received as a happy gift but for folks who have been around my blog a long time, they know that I will try to show all sides of a custom – the good, bad and ugly.

    My late husband was very generous and very loving. He enjoyed surprising me not only on birthdays and anniversaries but if he had to go on a business trip, he would always bring back a lovely gift. He made it clear though that he himself would not wear any kind of jewelry though except his watch and wedding band.

  51. Gold jewelry can be beautiful, but every one knows that most men in Saudi give jewelry when they have done something wrong! so let’s not get fooled by them , ok?

  52. Hi everyone,

    Just wanted to add that ths is not only in saudia but all arab countries, before the girl get married her mom prepare for her the max of gold she can and also when she get married the husband offer her gold. This tradition u can find it nearly in all arab countries. Our mothers use to think its poweful and in case of trouble you sell your gold ….

  53. Hi Meme,

    Thanks for your comment. Even my own husband said a woman’s best protection could be her gold if she were in trouble!

  54. Gold is given as a woman’s financial security-period. It can be pretty and fashionable and an indication of status, but its primary purpose is to give a female the financial security she lacks because she cannot traditionally, whether that be in India or Arabia, provide for herself and her children financially. The LOVE and caring part is because the family knows this. My sisters-in-law got me western style gold jewelry for my maher(dowry), but when my mother-in-law saw my somewhat crestfallen face that I hadn’t received the eastern designs, she immediately took me to the gold souk. She made me choose several pieces I liked and shooed me off so she could bargain without my eagerness detracting from her deal-making prowess. She also gave us gold coins, and whenever there was a birthday etc…in the family, she gifted gold coins. Several years later we visited her again and I wanted to buy some gold but she wouldn’t let me because the prices were too high she said. It had been around $280 a troy ounce, then nearly double at $400 something. TODAY it hovers around $1600 an ounce! That’s what it’s for and that’s why they buy it—a classic store of wealth. My mother-in-law very precisely told me that my dowry gold was for a future crisis, and god forbid in case of divorce or my husband (her son) could no longer support me. She strongly derided the western style jewelry because its value is mainly in its workmanship whilst its gold content is typically 14 or 18K versus the 22 and even24K common from the India Ocean to the Yellow Sea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,130 other followers

%d bloggers like this: