|Dimensions||3.4 × 2.2 cm|
The Celtic design is said to have originated with St. Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century. Among the many explanations for the circle around the cross is the theory that Patrick wanted to proclaim the lordship of Christ by placing His cross in front of the sun – which many Irish people worshipped at the time – and that the true light of the world is Jesus.
The making of jewellery and decorative items from Mother of Pearl is perhaps Bethlehem’s oldest and most established industry. The practice supposedly came to Bethlehem in the 15th century with the arrival of Franciscan friars. Locals soon mastered the art and made a modest living selling handmade items to the many pilgrims who streamed into Bethlehem.
Traditionally, the sea shells and abalone were brought in from the Port of Aqaba on the Red Sea but now they are imported from Australia, California, New Zealand, and Brazil. Palestinian Christians, particularly the Zoughbi family in Bethlehem, have often received international recognition for their mastery of this art form.
The history of Mother of Pearl carving in Palestine was featured in published in the May 2007 issue of .