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Chinese King Fisher Set

My last post was about the beauty of Chinese enamels. For thousands of years Chinese artisans found another way to add colour to their metal ornaments without enameling.

The art; tian-tsui (“dotting with kingfishers”) utilized the iridescent blue feathers of the Kingfisher as an inlay for ornaments ranging from large decorative screens to the small pieces of jewelry featured here.

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08-02-07 Chinese King Fisher Set

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The kingfisher was highly prized for its brilliant plumage... a small bird... slightly larger than a sparrow... the demand for feathers almost brought these birds to extinction and by 1930 all the workshops producing this jewelry had closed.

My collection focuses on late 19th and early 20th century pieces. Early pieces of Kingfisher jewelry use only the blue feathers... as seen in these photos the later pieces incorporate feathers of other vibrant colours...

... these pieces mix the blue with red, green and purple feathers ... I'm not sure if this mix of colours was because of the scarcity of the feathers or a new artistic style.

Chinese artisans painstakingly glued small clippings of feathers to gold, silver or brass ornaments.

Please.. never try to clean these pieces. They are quite delicate and fragile ...very difficult to restore.

For more information on this fascinating art form see "Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art", Beverley Jackson, Ten Speed Press.

Singapore RE 2.5.2