WHY I WROTE THE BOOK
My late husband David Ransom and I collected Middle Eastern silver jewelry throughout our twenty years as a Foreign Service tandem couple in Arab countries. After my retirement in 2001, I began to organize and document our collection. I did lectures, exhibits and finally participated in a seminar on Yemeni culture at the Freer Sackler Gallery in 2003. There I gave my first lecture featuring only Yemeni traditional jewelry. I showed wonderful photos, but made it clear that I had done little research. No one had talked to the silversmiths and the women who wore the pieces. I was uniquely qualified to do the research, for I owned many examples and I speak Arabic.
When my beloved husband died suddenly three months after the seminar, I reached out for something to distract me from my grief. I applied for a grant to do research in Yemen. I made a return visit in the spring of 2004 to Yemen and when I returned got news that I had won a grant. I began research that fall. The rest is history.
The book has been very successful. It came out in late June 2014 and as of January 2015 it had sold 1500 copies. AUC Press will publish my book in paperback and I hope to get it translated into Arabic. I am preparing a second volume focusing on Yemeni silversmiths.
With the help of American Institute for Yemeni Studies research grants, Marjorie Ransom spent a year in Yemen in the 2004-9 period studying jewelry and costumes. She wrote a book on her findings, Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Yemeni Regional Jewelry, and plans a second volume on silversmiths.
Ms. Ransom lived twice as a U.S. diplomat in Yemen in a thirty-year career that took her also to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Egypt. She and David Ransom, her late husband, were the first Arabic-speaking tandem couple in the Foreign Service. Over the course of their career, they assembled a collection of more than 2000 pieces of Middle Eastern silver jewelry.
Ms Ransom has lectured widely in the US about the traditional jewelry of the Middle East and spoke about Yemeni silver jewelry at the Freer Gallery Symposium on the Cultural Heritage of Yemen in 2003. In fact, the idea of researching Yemeni jewelry came out of that seminar.
Marjorie Ransom wrote articles: "Research in Yemen" for Yemen Update, the journal of the American Institute for Yemen Studies, in 2005; "Silver Working in Yemen before and after the Jewish Exodus in the late 1940s" for TEMA, a Journal for Judeo-Yemenite Studies, in 2007; "The Laazim, an essential piece of wedding jewelry," for the acquisition catalogue of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris in 2008; "Yemeni Traditional Silver Jewelry, Will It Survive?" for Thakerah, the online journal of Daw al-Mawruth, an ethnographic museum in Sana'a, Yemen, in 2009; “Middle Eastern Jewelry: Vestige of an Earlier Way of Life” for the catalogue for the exhibit, Women in Orient, at the Musee du Quai Branly, in 2010; “Yemeni Traditional Silver Jewelry” for the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam in 2010; “The Enduring Craft of Yemeni Silver” for the January/February 2012 issue of Saudi Aramco World, “Silver Speaks” for Durrah Magazine in Bahrain in September, 2012, and “Arabic Silver Jewelry: The Allure of the Traditional” for Ornament, Volume 36 No. 5, pp. 60-65, in 2014.
Ms. Ransom has three daughters and five grandchildren and lives in Washington, DC.