Friday, July 10, 2009

Kanzashi: Japanese Hair Ornament


Kanzashi is a traditional hair ornament that was worn by Japanese women in the Edo and Meiji Periods, i.e., 17th through 19th centuries. A variety of styles developed, from sticks to combs to heavily ornamented pieces of hair jewelry. These kanzashi were part of the high coiffured hairstyles common at the time and were worn mainly by brides and geisha. In more recent times, the well-dressed Japanese business lady has adapted the kanzashi as an ornament to add elegance to their rather staid business suits.

These long, slender ornaments can be beautifully displayed in frames or as part of an ikebana flower arrangement.

We are fortunate to have found a few of these gorgeous 19th century hair ornaments over the years. This first one is intricately handmade with delicate silver leaves and dangling birra-birra chains of coral beads and silver bells. The flowers are also carved coral beads and the fluttering gold butterfly is supported by a spring.
Even older is this colorful kanzashi made to look like a twig or branch. The branch is covered with hand-beaded seed pearls and leaves of carved jade. The flowers, which are attached to the branch by silver wires, are carved coral lotus and an amethyst chrysanthemum.
The last of these is a wonderful, large tortoise shell flower attached a tremblant on a spring to the hair comb. The workmanship is fantastic.
An interesting side note: One of our customers, an elderly Japanese lady, told us that when she was young, her mother explained to her how to utilize the long, pointed prongs of her kanzashi as a weapon to hold off unwanted advances!

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