mother of our lord

Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem

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.

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. It was noted by Richard Pococke, who travelled there in 1727.

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.

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.

Present day products, include crosses, earrings, brooches, maps of Palestine, and picture frames.



  • Weir, Shelagh (1989). Palestinian Costume, London: British Museum Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7141-2517-2. (exhibition catalog)

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