This spectacular pair of silver ear ornaments is from the Im Mien or Dao/Yao People of Laos, south China (Yunnan) and northern Thailand. (Their wide distribution is the result of land-related and political conflicts over the years.)
The size and weight of these suggests that they were not worn from the ears but near the ears and would have been suspended from a headdress.
The form of the ear ornaments is based on a centuries-old tradition and based on Daoist ceremonial swords.
The spirals and silver wire wrapping used to make these ornaments are of a particularly high standard.
The central part of each ornament is lightly engraved on each side with a fish motif – a typical motif associated with fertility, fecundity and prosperity. Fish tend to be plentiful when there is water and when the rains have been good and in turn this is linked to there being good harvests. In this way, the fish motif is an auspicious one and often is associated with weddings, so it is likely that these ear ornaments would have been worn at weddings and other similar ritual events.
The size of this type of ear ornament grew smaller over the 20th century. The large size of this pair, as well as the quality of the silver used and their fineness, suggests they are earlier.
The pair are in excellent condition and are accompanied by an attractive, custom-made black display stand.
Pourret, J.G., The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Thames & Hudson, 2002.