According to the Bethlehem municipality, olive-wood carving is thought to have begun in Bethlehem in the 4th century CE, following the construction of the Church of the Nativity. At the time, Christian monks taught how to make craft to the city's residents. Though its exact origins are obscure, one of the earliest olive-wood handicrafts were rosary beads carved from olive pits.
Olive-wood is ideal for craft-making being resistant to decay and receptive to a number of surfacing treatments. The wood is usually carved using simple hand tools. Today, rough cutting is carried out using machines programmed with a design model, though fine work, such as work with facial structures, must be chiseled by hand.
Olive-wood carvings are largely purchased by tourists and are important to Bethlehem's economic industry. A number of artists in the city continue to make over a thousand different crafts, such as boxes, picture frames, covers for historical and old books, candle holders, rosaries, urns, vases and Christmas Ornaments. Biblical scenes depicting Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the three Magi are also integrated into their work.
Mother of pearl carvings