For over forty years, collectors Maudy Smith and Jaap Heij have travelled the globe in search of silver jewellery. Their collection includes more than six hundred pieces of ethnic jewellery, gathered from places ranging from Morocco to China. Head ornaments, necklaces, stomachers, bracelets, rings, belts, ankle bracelets and toe rings are presented alongside useful object such as chatelaines, ear-cleaners, and travel accessories.

For this collector couple, silver is something alive and that is what makes this noble metal so extraordinary. Unlike gold, which never loses its shine, when unused, silver jewelry tarnishes. However, when it is worn, its luster returns, though the piece is transformed in the process. In this way, every silver object has an secret to tell.

The Power of Silver presents two hundred pieces from the Smith-Hutschenruyter Collection. This publication explores not only the jewellery’s splendour and artistic value, but also the people behind the work. Artists speak about the pieces they have produced. We are given the chance to listen to silversmiths and merchants, as well the collectors themselves. Women discuss their particular relationship to their jewellery. For example, for a 27-year-old Berber woman, to live without silver is unthinkable, “because without neck ornamentation one looks like a camel.” But these works in silver play more than just a decorative role. They also have a talismanic function, and express status and economic independence. “See what we are wearing and you will know who we are.”

Accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (17 February – 22 May 2011).