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Chinese Dress Clips-An overlooked Treasure

Over the years, we have watched the market for Chinese Ornaments soar along with their prices. I am not sure what I would do today if I wanted to begin collecting in this fascinating area. Along with the costs, there is now the added problems of fakery …as some people exploit the demand and the lack of knowledge of new collectors.


What are commonly becoming known as ‘dress clips’ actually have several different varieties and eras. The oldest form, appears not only in China but in the Victorian era in Europe as well. These were designed to be worn at the waist and hold an assortment of tools – often for sewing or grooming. The construction of the clasp and dangle are designed to be sturdy… as seen in the image below. That utility did not prevent beautiful decorative ornaments of many different materials to be used.


This group of ‘clips’ represent some of the finest skills of the Chinese artisan- whether it be carving, enamelling or silver work. Each is its own piece of art …often with the rich symbolism of the Chinese culture.

Over time, ‘utility’ gave way ‘beauty’ and  having clips that would not put holes in garments the way broaches do. In the 1920’s …with the popularity of Chinoiserie in western fashions… ‘fur clips’ became popular and the settings became more secure …shown by the beautiful repurposed jade plaque last in the photos.

[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

0103 0026
0019 0009
0057 0058
0030 0036
0006 0077
0018 0022
0029 0051

While many dress clips were repurposed into broaches or pendants, many have survived in their original and beautiful form. They are a very affordable entry point for collectors or for someone who would just love to have a beautiful piece of jewelry and Chinese culture. I have to warn you …collecting them can become rather addictive!

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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One Comment

  1. Fru Teston
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    What a splendid website to help me identify my Asian beads! I have some brown molded beads that were given to me 50 years ago and they were “old” then, but have been unable to concentrate on that issue by your beautiful pictures of things I have never seen before. Thanks!

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