This collection of nine hairpins are of silver, gilded silver and pink gold set with rose cut pink and blue sapphires, and clear stones known locally in Sri Lanka as Matara ‘diamonds’ (white zircons). (Matara is a sea port on the south coast of Sri Lanka from where the stones come.)
Known as kondakoora hairpins, each has an arrow-like end and a boteh-shaped finial. Such hairpins were worn by women in the ‘Low Country’ regions of Sri Lanka from the 18th through to the early 20th century.
Later, the fashion developed in Sri Lanka for the hairpins to be worn as brooches and so many, including four of the nine examples here, were fitted with long brooch pins on the reverse.
Often, these are wrongly ascribed to India or Turkey and described as turban pins.
Examples are illustrated in Wimalaratne (2001, p. 19).
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 is a fine collection of such hairpins.
(The final image below shows related examples displayed in Sri Lanka’s National Museum in Colombo.)
Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956.
Wimalaratne, K.D.G. & D. Gomes, Costumes of Sri Lanka, 2001.