Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Friday, February 1


This family heirloom in kept in a small Liberty of London box.  Heather suspects that her cousin purchased the hair ornament when she was an employee at Liberty during the 1970s, though its origin is uncertain.  This fine piece of jewellery is decorated with blue iridescent kingfisher feathers (which we first believed to be butterfly wings).  Many kingfisher species are at risk of extinction, mostly due to human activity disrupting their habitat.  I would also assume these feathers have been banned from commercial use, like tortoise shell and ivory.

There are roughly 90 species of kingfisher, most wearing bright plumage in a variety of colours.  These variations of the blues and greens are seen in the pieces featured below.  Painstakingly assembled by cutting and glueing feathers to gilt silver, kingfisher jewellery was produced in China for over 2,000 years, practiced as a high art form and extremely popular for the electric blue colour.  

We are in need of an expert to further identify the piece featured above.  Authentic to China pre-1940s  or a Liberty reproduction?

Below are some other examples of Chinese hair pins and jewellery using Kingfisher feather.  The pieces featured here date to 19th century, Qing dynasty except for the last image, an amazing pair of shoes for the 1950s house of Dior courtesy of FIDM museum.

The evening shoes below are designed by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, Paris, 1959.  These belong to the FIDM Museum in LA and are iconic for their silhouette, sculptural heel and material decoration.  The only other pair known today is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Read more about the acquisition and view a detail photograph of this artifact here.

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