Silver-Gilt Hairpin with Red Stones
length: 11cm, weight: 15g
This hairpin of gilded silver and mounted with 24 red stones is typical of a type used in Sri Lanka from the 18th through to the early 20th century. It has an arrow-like end and a boteh-shaped finial.
Almost invariably, these are wrongly ascribed to India or Turkey and described as turban ornaments. The image below shows a Sri Lankan woman wearing such a pin in her hair.
Three examples are illustrated in Cruse (2007, p. 115). Examples also have appeared in Malaysia where Chettiyar women, particularly in Malacca, wore them. It is not clear however, if the Malaysian examples were made in Malaysia (there were plenty of Tamil jewellers in the Straits Settlements) or if they were imported from Sri Lanka. In any event, the national museum of Malaysia, Museum Negara Malaysia, has seven such hairpins in its collection. Kassim (1988) observes that it was indeed the Chettiyar of Malacca who wore them.
This example is in fine condition with no repairs and no losses to the stones.
UK art market.
Mohammad Kassim Haji Ali, Gold Jewellery and Ornaments: In the Collection of Muzium Negara Malasyia, Persatuan Muzium Malaaysia, 1988; and Cruse, J., The Comb: Its History and Development, Robert Hale, 2007.
Inventory no.: 1097
Similar hair pins displayed in the National Museum of Sri Lanka, Colombo.
An example currently displayed in the British Museum.