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Liao Dynasty Pair of Fine, Engraved Gilded-Silver Serpent Bracelets

Liao Dynasty, 10th century

diameter at widest point: 6.2cm combined weight: 51g



private collection, UK

This very beautiful pair of gilded (gold plated) silver bracelets are in ‘C’ form and have been cast from silver using the lost wax process, engraved and then gilded (gold plated). They have raised edges and a raised central spine that runs the length of each bangle.

The pairs of terminates are in the form of snub-nosed dragon heads. The two heads share the one body, with the body being engraved onto each bracelet. The bodies are decorated with ring punching. (The decorative device of ring-punching to provide detail or background is a hallmark of Liao dynasty metalwork.)

Shen (2006, p. 160) illustrates a related gold pair that were excavated from the tomb of the Princess of Chen who was buried in 1018. According to Shen, ‘C’-shaped bracelets with animal terminates were first produced in the ancient Near East in the first millennium BC. Later, the form spread to Eurasia. The substitution of dragons for other animals was an innovation of the Khitan people, the founders of the Liao empire.


Shen, H.N. (ed.), Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907-1125), 5 Continents, 2006.

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