Our approach

The journey of jewellery

From the 1950’s onwards, traditional jewellery was increasingly sold off for a number of reasons. Gold was preferred over silver, while the rise in banks and the availability of bank accounts replaced its age-old function as personal savings account. Changing dress styles made accessories such as belt pins and fibulas superfluous, and for a while, traditional jewellery was regarded as old-fashioned altogether. Women would sell their silver items to local or itinerant silversmiths, who would melt down the pieces to create new items.

The rise of collecting

The same timeframe saw an increase in international mobility. Tourists visited in greater numbers than ever before, and many foreigners found jobs in the region. Not just as oil-workers or diplomats, but also as archaeologists, teachers or medical staff. They took an interest in the silver jewellery they encountered with silversmiths and purchased pieces as gifts, as memories of their period living in the region, or simply to admire the craftmanship with which these were made. Some of these collections have grown to be quite sizeable, and hold jewellery pieces that are now scarce in the countries they originate from.

Our timeframe: a pivotal moment

Our current day and age is a pivotal moment for the future of traditional jewellery. That is because, right now, three major developments collide.

Jewellery is heritage. Three generations later, traditional jewellery and personal adornment is no longer regarded as old-fashioned, but as heritage. Jewellery is closely linked to identity. It connects us to to roots, regions and history. Many jewellery items that belong to this heritage tradition however are no longer available in the cultures they come from, as they found new homes elsewhere.

The last generation of original wearers is ageing. The women who wore these pieces in everyday life, know the countless stories of their meaning and symbolism, and lived with adornment on a daily basis, are our grandmothers. They are passing away, and with them a massive amount of knowledge and lived experience disappears.

The first generation of collectors is also ageing. The young tourists, travelers and migrants of 70 years ago have by now reached old age. Their collections are on the brink of being handed over to the next generation, but only too often, these jewellery pieces end up scattered around the globe. Not every museum in the West is interested in these collections, while museums in the countries of origin are often not the first to come to mind. Yet it is here that this heritage is home.

What we do

We connect Many collectors struggle with the question what to do with their collection. Simultaneously, in many of the countries of origin these forms of adornment are increasingly embraced as cultural heritage, a development that will only grow over the coming decades. Qilada strives to connect both: we accept private collections in our care and get them ready to be passed on to museums and cultural institutions in their countries of origin.

This is a long-term vision: it may take years, even decades, to pass a collection on. That is because it takes time and effort to research, document and photograph every piece, but also because the partner institutions or museums we curate this heritage for simply may not exist yet. However, we strongly feel the time to recollect existing collections for future generations is now – if we wait another 10 years, many of the pieces and the history embedded in them will have been gone.

We share During the time a collection is with us, we bring it to life. We use it to raise awareness on how these are not simply bracelets or earrings, but actual heritage. We curate exhibitions, present talks and workshops, and share as much information as we can in publications, blogs and on social media. As the Qilada-collections grow, they will be used for traineeships and education, so as not just to pass on objects but also practical experience in collection management as well as their cultural history.

Working together

Qilada does not operate in a vacuum. We work closely together with experts, museums and institutions in North Africa and Southwest Asia. Currently, we are in the process of assembling an advisory board to help us fulfill our goals.


Qilada is a non-profit organization. We are entirely dependent on external funding to cover our costs: storage, security, and cleaning, as well as conserving, describing and publishing collections donated to our care. We do not buy or sell jewellery: collections donated to us will in turn be handed over to partner institutions.

Please contact us if you would like to contribute to our work: any donation will be most welcome!