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Manofica coral gesture set in silver, Verona, Italy, 1850-1920

Hung around on a necklace, the coral arm and hand is shown displaying a fig or mano fica gesture with the thumb in between the index and second finger. The gesture was used to ward off the evil eye – the widespread belief that some people can cause harm to others simply by looking at them in a certain way. This ‘look’ may be given deliberately, in an attempt to cause harm, or accidentally, perhaps because of feelings of envy. The harm may take the form of bad luck, illness or death. Fig or mano fica gestures were common from the medieval period and were also used to convey obscenities and cause offence. The amulet is pictured here with similar metal (A665908) and bone (A665892) examples.

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Glossary: pendant

Hanging articles of jewellery, usually suspended from a necklace, but also includes Renaissance examples fastened to the sleeve often worn as decorative ornaments; can also be an article of devotional, magical, or mourning jewelry which then may sometimes be concealed under clothing.

Glossary: amulet

Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.