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Pair of Borneo Man’s Solid Brass Spiral Ear Ornaments

Kenyah/Kayan Dayak People, Sarawak, Borneo
19th century

diameter: 3.5cm, combined weight: 180g

Available - Enquire


Acquired in the UK, from the estate collection of Dr George Yuille Caldwell (1924-2016). Dr Caldwell, an English-born physician moved to Singapore in the 1950s, from where he built up a collection of ethnographica mostly from Borneo and Indonesia.

Ear ornaments of brass were signs of prestige and power. This pair of Kenyah Dayak solid cast brass ornaments of spiral form meant for a man weigh 90 grams each and as such are both ear pendants and weights, designed to help stretch the earlobes to exaggerated lengths.

They also have a superb smoothness and dark-golden patina that has come from years of handling and wear.

Earrings of this size and weight would have been reserved for a person of significant prestige.

A related, single ear pendant of spiral form is illustrated in Hoek et al (2004, p. 228).

The examples here are in fine condition, and have a good ‘feel’ in the hand from age and wear.


Brinkgreve, F., & D.J. Stuart-Fox (eds), Living with Indonesian Art: The Frits Liefkes Collection, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, 2013.

Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.

Richter, A., The Jewelry of Southeast Asia, Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Rodgers, S., Power and Gold: Jewelry from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, The Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, 3rd ed. 1995.

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