HvWO 029IV

Extremely rare and early Female Kohl container and application stick dating from the 19th century


Extremely Rare and early Female silver Kohl pot with filigree design on the container and interesting early top.  Purpose: the black Kohl was used as make-up by women. This kohl container  is very special as the cover is identical to the covers of 19th century silver gun powder boxes, the cover of gun powder containers  and the silver toe-pin of early Omani sandals. The side of the container is decorated with some filigree similar to that on a Saidi khanjar. All these features suggest that the Kohl-pot was made in the 19th century! Finally the application stick is also very finely decorated.

The Stick is used to apply the Kohl and the pot is used to store it. Children, men and women in Oman wear the cosmetic Kohl round the eye, which gives the (already large) eyes more expression. 

Local believe is that it improves eyesight however in practice many people LOST eyesight due to eye infections by the practice of passing the application stick around from person to person. 

Kohl is paste traditionally made from finely powdered sulphide of antimony mixed with rosewater. However it is also made form wood-ash mixed with vegetable oils and other means. The book by Lane (ref 3) contains detailed information on the use and manufacture of Kohl which is almost identical to that in Oman. Oman Adorned (ref 4)  page 131/133 contains a recipe for Kohl. Weight 80 grams. The container including  the eye is 5 cm high. The application stick including  the eye is 10,5 cm long (probably a bit shortened over time)

Antique Omani silver kohlpotAntique Omani silver kohlpot

Arab Name: Makhalah / Makhal

Period: 1850-1900

Origin: Oman Sharqia area (includes the towns Sur and Al Mudairib) in view of the design of the top and the filigree work. In the past this area also had close ties with Zanzibar / East Africa.

  1.  The craft heritage of Oman Vol 2 Richardson & Dorr page 448 item 081: the example second from the left is similar, however the top of our Kohl container is original. 
  2. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver Longman 2000 (new edition) p 53 (different design)
  3. William Lane An account of the manners and customs of the modern Egyptians 1833-1835 (different design)
  4. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 112 (different design)
  5. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster p96 fig 90  (different design)
  6. Traditional silver jewellery and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 138 (different design)