I bought these highly collectible and rare silver and coral Chinese earrings in an entire collection from the Afghani grandfather of one of my dealers in Turkey, who he said had been collecting these for a long time.
These have fabric added where perhaps once there were larger pieces of coral. The coral could have been sold in times of financial hardship, and replaced with the fabric. One hook is slightly shorter than the other.
These date from 1900-1930. Some may have been worn by the Tujia and Qiang ethnic groups, essentially northwestern China, in the Qinghai, Gansu provinces. Gansu province is where the Silk Road enters China and the people there have been trading with Afghanistan for 2000 years. The earrings are fairly rare today as most were destroyed or confiscated in the communist and cultural revolutions, destroying most ethnic and cultural treasures. In the 1970s the communist government exported lots of reconstructed pieces to the West, but most were already destroyed. It’s a tragedy that the skills were lost, as during the revolution, anyone with these skills could be sent to labour camps and killed.
The symbolism and design are all Chinese. Most have to do with longevity and fertility, possibly wedding earrings or a wedding gift. Some of them would have had kingfisher feathers embedded in the design, but age has removed these.
Information attributed to Christine Lee, archeologist and Chinese scholar.
These earrings are part of my collection of fifteen sets, numbering CE1-CE15. It would be a shame to break up the collection, but it is also time for them to find a new custodian. See black and white photo for how they were worn.
Please peruse the photographs carefully. They are an essential part of the description. ALL my old beads and pieces have dings, dents and missing bits – they are part of the charm, and show the history. I also have not cleaned these since I acquired them as they’d remove the essential patina that helps determine age and wear.