Thursday, September 11, 2014

I love collecting .....

......jade hairpins and hair accessories, from a bygone era. My collection is mostly made  from jade, carnelian or silver and date from the Qing dynasty to early 20th Century. Hairpins are essentially objects of feminine beauty to decorate ladies hair. They have evolved  into tender gifts of love  from milady to hero as featured in many a lovers tale in Chinese novels and dramas. Adam Cheng's wistful ballad Purple Jade Hairpin also celebrates the romance of the hairpin.

Vintage and antique hairpins of jade carnelian and silver

 Not all the hairpins in my collection are in their original condition, some have been reworked with missing parts filled in, others are the remains of assemblages namely the jade, carnelian, coral or agate while the gold and silver content have been melted down for money.

The jade and carnelian carvings below are examples of  items disassembled from a large assemblage.
Remains of hairpins

Bottom most piece of a fish had been reworked by me into a dangle.

Hair pin shaped as a sword at one end and a fish at the other.

Hairsticks are the most basic design of hairpins and usually consist of a simple gilt or silver stick topped with a  jade charm. The five sticks shown below are examples.

Hairsticks with small jade charm tops

Many of these jade tops  get detached from the original sticks as the silver and gold content of the sticks can be melted down and converted into money. The remaining jade tops are  then recycled as jade charms, pendants, or amulets.

Small jade charms recycled from hairsticks

Lotus because of its association with purity and spirituality was a favorite design for milady's hairpin. Picture below shows one intact jade stick with a lotus and five other pieces of lotus sans the sticks

Lotus jade stick with remains of five other carved lotus

 Other jade carvings used in hair accessories can range from design of flowers, birds, hands, butterflies, flower basket etc. Below are some examples

butterflies and flowers



Beautiful hands to emphasise beautiful hair

Besides jade, carnelian was also a favourite medium for hair pin carvings.

Carnelian florets

Some of the examples shown above are often described as buttons but I suspect they may  have served multi purposes, as components in a large or complicated hairpin, as a gentlemen's pin and brooches for example.
There are also hairpins carved from a single piece of jade or carnelian which are  cool.
This curved jade hair ornament is completely plain 

Carnelian and jade hairpins
Hairpin of  a goat and a dragon

 Not forgetting my silver hairpins
Silver hairpins
And here is a rare matching pair of insects with imperial green jade for the wings, coral for the eyes and pearl for the body set in silver gilt.
A pair of hairpins collected from a heritage house
 in Swatow, South China.

Finally my most elaborate hair ornament which I daresay is a reworked piece judging by the rather rough workmanship, nevertheless, still an exotic piece.

Hairpin made of carnelian, jade, coral twigs,  pearl and glass charms

This semi circular hairpin is composed of three bis (2 of white jade, one of carnelian) a pair of jade deers,  small coral and pearl beads, emerald green glass beads, a white jade flower, 2 small carnelian pendants, a pair of coral twigs,  a pair of carnelian bats and a pair of white jade carvings of  a bushy tailed squirrel guzzling on a nut .....oh  what an eclectic and enjoyable piece !

The central silver stick has the Chinese characters Ai Yu Zhou  (Love Jade Manufacture) inscribed on it.

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Favourite Books

  • Theft : a love story
  • The Uncommon Reader
  • The Silent Patient
  • Never Let me go
  • Angela's Angels
  • Where angels fear to tread