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Chinese Coral Enamel Kingfisher Set

Eye candy… that’s what I call this set … the brilliant blue of kingfisher feathers is a perfect contrast for the tube of coral seed beads… a medium salmon red.

0I had a dear friend of mine, a professional bead artist, examine this necklace to explain how is was constructed. He says the coral was needle woven with a tubular ‘peyote’ stitch (also know as a gourd stitch).

This stitch was named ‘peyote’ in the U.S. in the late 19th century because it was often used by Native Americans …research shows this stitch was also used in Africa and Guatemala… so while none of the resources that I checked mentioned China … it is pretty obvious from this piece that it was used there… if anyone knows what it is named in China, I would love to hear from you.

1 Ornaments like these one were worn by women in the Mandarin Court and were symbols of wealth and status. Costly materials … the coral imported from Italy, the rare feathers… the intensive labor, all combine to make this fragile beauty as rare and desirable as it was 150 years ago.


[adapted with screw back findings c.1920]

Eiberhard comments in the Dictionary of Chinese Symbols, 1986: "Chinese are people of the eye." This set is a wonderful example.

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  1. elif
    Posted June 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    just FYI: the stitch used is almost certainly two-needle right-angle weave, rather than peyote stitch. i’ve had the good fortune to examine earrings similar to the ones you own; they were constructed with right-angle weave. the square/diamond arrangement of the beads doesn’t look like peyote stitch to me – peyote stitch is dense, while RAW is a more open stitch; all the beads are at right angles to each other (hence the name). Valerie Hector is an artist who has done extensive research on Chinese beadwork; you can find her website here: the majority of her recent work is constructed with some version of right-angle weave.

  2. Bennett McCardle
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Elif — it has got to be right-angle weave, and Valerie Hector would be one good authority. She may use the single-needle technique but I understand that is a relatively recent development and the two-needle system is more likely.

  3. Sharon
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Right-angle weave was used for both the coral tube and the buds, but it may or may not be done using needles. That would depend on the type of thread used. I do tubes like this for beaded bag handles but since the currently preferred “thread” for Chinese craftwork is fine fishing line, I do not require a needle. This should be what my teacher terms a triangular tube. A coarser version would be a square tube (4 beads in every row). The ready-made beaded items from China are threaded on either fishing line or coarse twisted thread. The older beaded items are usually threaded on thread or fine wire. This is a lovely set of jewellery. I wore kingfisher feather hairpins and earrings for my wedding and had to fend off curious fingers 🙂

  4. Edwin Mok
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    will you sell the kingfisher set? necklace and earring?

  5. RP
    Posted December 25, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I am sorry…none of the items on the site are for sale.

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