Aron Wiesenfeld: The Crown

Born in 1972, Aron Wiesenfeld had his first solo exhibition at the Timmons Gallery in San Diego in 2007. He paints enigmatic, lonely people in empty spaces, making the viewer imagine an unseen backstory. He writes, “If something is going on behind the surface, people are drawn to it but don’t know why. They’ve connected to something in it. And that is a constant theme through my work, the ability to paint something to suggest something that isn’t shown.”

In “The Crown,” he draws a woman wearing a crown of candles without feeling the flames. Indeed, the smoke gives her a royal height. Do you think she looking inward, or at someone?

Mr. Wiesenfeld says his figures “are refugees, pilgrims, and wanderers, trying to get to the other side of a river that is forever out of reach. I think they are answering a call that is not consciously understandable, but resonates somewhere inside them. It draws them to a place they forgot that they knew about, something like a return to Eden.”


For more scholarly research, please examine

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Jen Cruse: Rolled Gold on Victorian Hairpins

The process of producing rolled gold, invented in Birmingham in 1785 by a London manufacturer, was known as gold plating until the 1840s, when electro-gilding methods were introduced. Rolled gold is produced by fusing a thin layer of gold alloy over a base metal, or more often, over a brass or copper alloy. It is then rolled out into sheets of varying thicknesses, depending on the intended use. Rolled gold wire is extruded by enclosing a metal core inside a rolled gold tube and drawing it out to a desired diameter, in either a solid or hollow state.

Rolled gold is often marked RG indicating its authenticity, and is sometimes qualified by a figure to show which carat gold has been selected. In the USA in the 1870s, a double form of rolled gold was introduced, particularly for making pocket-watch cases. Termed gold-filled or rolled gold plate, it was simply a base metal with a gold alloy soldered to both sides.

Rolled gold is relatively light in weight, a property which helps to identify it. It was considered to be a form of embellishment that produced the same effect as solid gold. When applied as a decorative material, it offered a lighter and less expensive alternative.

These three hairpins have coiled rolled-gold headings with attached tines of blonde tortoiseshell (2) and brass (1). British 1870-90. Between 4 & 5 inches (10 –12.5 cm) in length.


The Comb: Its History and Development

You may also examine the website of the Antique Comb Collectors Club.

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Creative Museum: The Riches of the French Empire

Multimedia exhibitions on comb scholarship are the hallmark of the Creative Museum. “The Riches of the French Empire” shows us how fashion expressed the tragedy of revolution, themes of antiquity brought back a refined aesthetic, Napoleon recognized a business opportunity, and how men put women in charge of exhibiting their wealth. The comb was an essential fashion element in every development.

When the monarchy was overthrown, the voluminous hairstyles of Marie Antoinette disappeared. During the Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794), the guillotine took the lives of 16,594 people. In 1795, many women of noble descent cut off their hair to honor those condemned to death. Hairstyles had evocative names such as “The Sacrificed One,” and “The Victim.”

When we juxtapose this painting of Marie Antoinette from the Musée Antoine Lecuyer and this portrait of a woman after the Revolution (painter: Louis-Léopold Boilly, Musée du Louvre), we can see the traumatic effects of terror, when it follows a revolution.

However, the French admiration of antiquities shaped the Directory Era (1795 – 1799), and women grew their hair long again. Napoleon saw a business opportunity. Classical tendencies could give a boost to the trade in luxury goods. With this aim in mind, he proclaimed himself Emperor of France in 1804 and gave the job of making French fashion cross the bridge between pre- and post-Revolution to his wife, the Empress Josephine.

Neo-classic style became refined in French society. “Hair was parted at the side, swept back, and edged with kiss curls. A comb held up a high bun.” Josephine’s innovations gave birth to the French Empire comb. Its harmonious shape and splendid decoration make them museum pieces today.

Iconic women were essential to spreading this new fashion. Besides Josephine, there was her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais from her first marriage

Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister,

and Madame Tallien, who wore the favorite diadem decoration, coral beads.

The Creative Museum has an outstanding collection of French Empire combs. Some have rubies, others have pearls. You’ll have to see the presentation to get all the information on them. But they are absolutely gorgeous.


For more scholarly research, please see the Creative Museum’s presentation The Riches of the French Empire.

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Georges Fouquet Hair Combs

Sotheby’s is selling two combs by Georges Fouquet. One is a piece with different fittings, enabling the wearer to choose whether she wants a pendant, brooch, or comb, and the other is made of tortoiseshell. Final sale prices have been posted.

For our first piece, fan-shaped green, black, and white enamel lotuses elaborate a turquoise frame. The center jewel is a turquoise cabocohon, on top of which is a triangular opal. The piece is edged by diamonds and set in 18K gold, c. 1910. Signed signed G. Fouquet, # 2349. It comes in its original rose-colored leather, silk and velvet box, which is also signed G. Fouquet, 6. Rue Royale, Paris. Price estimate: $60,000 – $80,000. Sale price: $74,500.

On the second comb, look at the translucence in the blonde tortoiseshell. The artist chose an Egyptian theme by carving lotus and papyrus designs. Dotted by opals and accented with black and green enamel, the comb is signed G. Fouquet, #4680. It also comes in its original box. c. 1905 – 1908. Price estimate: $10,000 – $15,000. Sale price: $22,500.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

Sotheby’s Catalog: Fouquet Jewelry

Art Nouveau Jewelry

The Comb: Its History and Development
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Gina Hellweger: Incised Bone Hair Pin, Li Ethnic Minority, China

The Li ethnic minority lives mainly in the center and south of Hainan Province. According to historical records, they have been on Hainan Island for over 3000 years. The Li people have the earliest weaving techniques in Chinese history. They are skilled in spinning and weaving silk cotton. Today, their traditional clothing is only worn at festivals or ceremonies.

Hair pins were favorites of men when they presented gifts to their lovers, and women often took them as tokens of love for their boyfriends. China’s ethnic minorities have a tradition of using hair pins to fix up their hair. The hair pins are of diversified varieties with long histories, rich national features and cultural implications.

In Hainan, Li women wear a decoration where they once carried a weapon. This is called a “virgin’s hair dress.” The incised ox rib is an adoption from the blade which women once wore to protect their honor. Ornamental patterns like waves, fish, flowers, fruits, and geometric designs cover the pins.

These pins are made by craftsmen using ox or other long gently curved white bones, which are polished, then carved. Lampblack and melted beeswax are used to make the pattern stand out against the white bone. The decoration on top is a helmet, turban or hair that is coiled. Then the bone ornament is adorned with either one or two heads, and the body extends to the feet or the end of the pin.

The hair pins that are very delicately carved into the shape of a human being are said to represent a warrior ancestor and tribal leader protecting his people. The beautiful incised bone pin is inserted in a typical “Run-Style Hair,” worn in a bun, by Run-dialect-speaking women. When the women marry, they wear numerous hair pins depicting their ancestors to bring good luck and blessings.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Ethnic Minorities Of China

The Art of Silver Jewellery: From the Minorities of China
Article: Among the Big Knot Lois of Hainan: Wild Tribesman with Topknots Roam Little-Known Interior of This Big China Sea Island
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Charles Loloma Hair Comb

What does an innovator do when his soul, land, and religion belong to a race who survived genocide? How does an artist feel when his genius compels him to consider all cultural ideas equally, even those of the countries responsible for the genocide?

Early in his career, Charles Loloma realized that many traditional Native American designs, such as the squash-blossom necklace, came from Spanish influence, so he reached outside the Hopi Nation. He was the first jeweler to combine Mediterranian salmon and oxblood coral, gem-quality Lone Mountain turquoise, ivory, gel sugulite, exotic woods, silver, and 14K gold into jewelry. His bracelets and necklaces sought to express the texture of Hopi land and water, as well as the sacred masks of Kachina dancers. The groundbreaking way in which Loloma combined ideas made new art, which allowed people to understand the Hopi ethos more powerfully.

Here is a bracelet of a kachina face, symbolically interpreted in 14K gold, ivory, coral, turquoise, and charoite. Price on request.

In 1941, Rene d’Harnoncourt included a mural by Loloma at the highly successful exhibition, “Indian Art of the United States,” at the Museum of Modern Art. However, in the 1950s, as Loloma’s artistic courage was redefining Native American art, breaking down regional barriers, and bringing Hopi artists out of isolation, an all-white consortium of hotel and restaurant owners called the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial rejected his work three times for not being “Indian enough.” In other words, Loloma didn’t make stereotypical pieces white business owners thought white tourists would buy.

He made only three hair ornaments in his career. One of them is on sale at the Indian River Gallery. It uses his mosaic motif and combines stones with ironwood and silver. Price: $22,000. The valuation is correct. You may examine other Loloma pieces at Christie’s.

Charles Loloma was born near the village of Hotevilla on the Third Mesa of the Hopi Reservation on January 7, 1921. The reservation covers 2500 square miles of Northeastern Arizona and is made up of three “mesas,” flat table-top-like portions of land surrounded by cliffs. This terraced farmland is just beneath Hotevilla.

Loloma belonged to the Honani, the Badger phratry (fraternity) of the Hopi, which included many clans: Miunyan (porcupine), Wishoko (turkey-buzzard), Bull (butterfly), Buliso (evening primose), and Kachina (sacred dancer). He was also a snake priest, a revered status in Hopi culture. Every two years, snake priests dance to worship ancestors and bring rain. This is Loloma’s signature gold badger-claw ring coupled with a silver, coral, and silver snake pin.

He would travel from world to world, Paris one week, back on the reservation to perform religious duties the next. To explain the disparity, he said, “Two times I’ve been to Europe and Paris and have experienced what fine things are, but in order to create valid art, you have to be true to yourself and your heritage.

“I feel a strong kinship to stones, not just the precious and semi-precious stones I use in my jewelry, but the humble stones I pick up at random while on a hike through the hills or a walk along the beach. I feel the stone and think, not to conquer it, but to help it express itself”

This necklace, which was featured in a 1978 exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, is priced at $75,000.

“I wish to create a relationship between the earth and myself,” Loloma says. “Sometimes we do not realize what we are kicking over.” He selects a piece of rock from the red ground. “I want to make the soul come out.”


For more scholarly research and jewelry enjoyment, please examine

Loloma – Beauty Is His Name

Sterling Silver Authentic Native American Bear Claw Bracelet

Squash Blossom Necklace with Earrings
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Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Sale: The Mike Todd Tiara

In 1957, she gave him a daughter.

Abandoned to love, he gave her this:

Nine scrolls with larger terminals, spaced by latticework motifs, c. 1880. It sold for $4,226,500, but that doesn’t matter to me. Love is still priceless.


Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry

Elizabeth Taylor, A Passion for Life: The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend
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Some Lovely Things on Ebay

We are beauty hunters. Some lovely things have sold on E-bay at good prices, while other nice pieces are still for sale.

This emerald, pearl, and diamond Victorian parure was sent in by one of our community’s subscribers. I was so pleased to hear from her. Thank you! If another subscriber finds something delicious, you are more than welcome to send me a picture at

This parure comes from Austria, c. 1870, with hallmarks. It is made from 14K gold, sterling silver, faceted and cabachon emeralds, rose-cut diamonds, and pearls. The emeralds are mostly light green, however, the two cabachons at the bottom of the necklace have the beautiful deep-green color you want to see. The set comes in its original box. Price: $29,500.

This beautiful metal kanzashi from The Miriam Slater Collection has many meanings. The bent wire represents water. The crane signifies honor and loyalty. A silver rock anchors a floral bouquet. I will guess that the cuts in the circular pieces of dangling metal are a family crest. It is on sale for $225, a nice price for a rare, elaborate piece.

This 19th-Century Indian ivory comb was mislabled “Antique Victorian Ornately Carved Ox Bone Double Comb.” The Creative Museum has one. Whoever got this, even with the broken piece on the top left, for $63.91 did very well.

French Art Nouveau innovators like Louis Aucoc, who employed Rene Lalique, ornamented clarified horn with pearls to create jewelry that mirrored the natural world. He had many followers, among them Lucien Galliard. This art nouveau horn comb is beautifully translucent, with scrolling on the edges. Its three asymmetrical pearls are just enough, but not too much — a stunning piece. Unsigned, it sold for $639.07.

This real tortoiseshell, gold, and pearl art nouveau back comb is a classic beauty in excellent condition. It sold for $219.30.

Lastly, a dealer misidentified this silver comb as a “Spanish Mantilla Bird.” Well, first, a mantilla is a veil. The peineta that holds up the mantilla is much larger, and the comb is American. The hallmark indicates that it was made by Knowles & Ladd of Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1870. I do love the bird though. It sold for $145.


For more research on comb identification and values, please examine these books, which can all be found in our Resource Library.

Hair Combs: Identification & Values

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde
Posted in Art Nouveau, Auction, E-Bay, English Hair Comb, French Hair Comb, Japanese Hair Comb, Kanzashi | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese Gold Jewelry

To elaborate on the development of Chinese gold jewelry, I had to take an archaeological journey from the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 B.C.) to the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 A.D.). Looking at ancient maps, China started out small. Amid tribal wars, power struggles and consolidation made boundaries fluid. Ideas were exchanged.

Through collision and synthesis Chinese goldsmiths innovated, most notably when they made hair pins and crowns. Gold leaf, repoussé, casting, moulding, welded beading, filigree, drawn work, and plating have all been seen in excavated pieces, as well as those for sale at auction houses.

This Shang gold hair pin came from a grave in Liujiahe, near Beijing. Now famous in archaeological circles, the gold found here proves that metalworking, and therefore the Bronze Age started in China 4000 years ago, 800 years before Europe. What you see is the pin alone. Cast from a mould, there is a small, straight tenon joint at the front. This fit into the mortise of the pin’s ornament.

During the Spring-and-Autumn subperiod of the Warring States Dynasty (475 – 221 B.C.), this bird final to a royal crown was attributed to the Xiōngnú, a nomadic Mongol tribe who fought and conquered Chinese peoples to form the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.). The finial was also cast, but you can now see colored-stone inlay techniques. Welded beading in other jewelry was also excavated at the same grave in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.

When the Xiōngnú consolidated more territory during the Han Dynasty, the ideals they placed upon gold began to interact with Western tribal cultures, who cherished jade. The evidence can be seen in hair ornaments unearthed in Xigoupan, Mongolia, where jade was paired with gold.

After the Han Dynasty, three Yan Dynasties followed: Former, Latter, and Northern (265 – 420 A.D.), the Murong branch of Xianbei peoples established control and made beautiful gold headdress ornaments with dangling leaves called buyao, which means “shake as you go.” Here are examples of three ornaments and a full crown. (An aside: I am amazed at how the crown’s design resembles the Dogon chief’s crown at The Creative Museum.)

Baodianzhuang inlay, where stones were placed inside a gold casing, was popular among the aristocracy of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 A.D.). A full set of 7 gold hair ornaments was found in Huangpi, Hubei Province in Central China, just north of Hunan. Two gold hair pins, hair slides, ornaments, and the back of a comb were originally inlaid with precious stones, now missing. Because the pieces are not the same size, they could not have been worn symmetrically.

Two of the most beautiful crowns ever found were from the Wanli Emperor in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 A.D.), who ascended the throne at age 9. He was buried with a spectacular crown. Artists coiled and welded woven gold mesh, which served as the background to a gold dragon adorned with pearls and 20 other jewels.

One of Wanli’s two empresses, Xiaoduan, was buried with a kingfisher crown that boasted 6 phoenixes, 6 dragons, 128 rubies and sapphires, and 5449 pearls.

In 1521, the wife of a county secretary was found with a jewel-encrusted gold phoenix hair pin in her grave. As hair jewelry was a strict delimiter of social status, this shows a market change. Anyone with access to money could wear gold jewelry.

The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 A.D.) started with the intent to carry on Ming traditions, however, the Imperial family came from the Jurchen ethnic group from Northeast China, or Manchuria. They consolidated the most land, including Mongolia, and formed alliances with the Mongolian aristocracy. Their religion was Tibetan Buddhism and included shamanistic sacrifices.

In 2008, Sotheby’s had an auction of Qing gold hair pins. Keeping with tradition, each hair ornament was decorated with auspicious symbols, denoting social status. Many were shaped like ruyi, a back-scratching sceptre dating back to the Han Dynasty. Here are some pictures and prices:

Gold filigree borders a ruyi-shaped head with a pearl in the center. Six symbols are attached to the top by gold wire, including 4 dragons and a wan symbol, wishing the wearer prosperity and good fortune. Sale price: $15,000.

Five hammered gold petals separate 5 gold filigree petals with inlaid turquoise. A winged boy flying in the clouds decorates the pin itself. Sale price: $8000.

A meticulous gold-filigreed phoenix with pearls in perfect condition. I see Ming Dynasty influence in this piece. Sale price: $66,000.

Happy Chinese New Year. :-) It’s the Year of the Dragon. Celebrate by choosing some affordable Chinese Dragon Jewelry.


Source: Ancient Cultures of Jewelry and Ornamentation by Yang Boda: Arts of Asia, 2008

You may also examine

Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art

The Language of Adornment: Chinese Ornaments of Jade, Crystal, Amber, and Glass

Politics of Chinese Language and Culture: The Art of Reading Dragons
Posted in Chinese Hair Comb, Han Dynasty, Manchu hair pin, Qing Dynasty, Tang Dynasty | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jen Cruse: Garnets Adorning Hair Combs in the 19th Century

Garnets are semi-precious gemstones of the silicate (quartz) group of minerals, found in metamorphic rock in a variety of colours. They have been known since the Bronze Age not only as gemstones but also for their abrasive qualities. The gemstone variety has a rich transparent lustre while opaque garnets are used to this day as industrial abrasives.

The garnet takes its name from the fruit of the pomegranate, the principal stone being a rich crimson red. Most garnets come from mines in the Mount Kosakov area of Bohemia and were frequently used in jewellery by the early Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Celts. Bohemian garnets were very popular during the Victorian era as embellishments for combs and hairpins, often foil-backed to enhance their colour and reflective qualities. Sometimes garnets were polished en cabochon but more usually they were cut and faceted.

The garnet is found in several different colours, but the red variety is the most popular stone for setting in jewellery, ranging in colour from a medium red to a very dark red. Although some may appear to be almost black in colour, garnets sparkle with a rich crimson glow when viewed in bright light. On occasions, the term “Bohemian ruby” is mistakenly thought to be an actual ruby but is, in fact, a garnet, the birthstone for January.

This garnet comb is a tortoiseshell backcomb with silver gilt heading. The surface is engraved with Renaissance-style scrolling designs and set with large- and small-faceted garnets and 3 small pearls. English 1840-60. L = 3½ ins (8.9 cm); W = 3¼ ins (8.2 cm).


For more scholarly research, please see the The Antique Comb Collectors Club and

The Comb: Its History and Development, by Jen Cruse
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