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Tourmaline Flower Hairpin with Inlays

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: tourmaline, kingfisher feather inlay, gilt copper
Dimensions: height: 25cm; width: 12cm

 This hairpin is designed to resemble a flower. Made of copper, the gilt hair accessory features kingfisher feather inlays and is further embellished with jade, pearls, and tourmaline. The hibiscus flower (furong hua) comprises petals of tourmaline, stamens of small pearls, leaves of finely carved jade, and a receptacle of kingfisher feather. The butterfly above the flower has wings of jade and inlays of pearls and tourmaline. The hairpin was clearly crafted with these exquisite materials by an experienced artisan.

   Various intricate techniques were combined in making the ornament; these technical accomplishments include carving, gold filigree, beadwork, and kingfisher feather inlaying. Enhancing the elegance and vividness of the piece, the materials and techniques employed also reflect imperial privilege. The carving style used to produce the thin leaves of jade is attributed to Guangdong“s gem carvers; consequently, the technique is commonly known as Guang-slices (Chinese Guangpian). Characeristically delicate and even in thickness, they were the preferred source for leaves and butterfly wings.

 Keywords: tourmaline (bixi), kingfisher feather inlay (diancui), filigree (leisi), inlay (xiangqian), engraved design (kehua)


Translated by Wang Mengxi and Adam J. Ensign

Edited by Zhuang Ying


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