This Japanese antique 19th century Gin or silver Bira-bira kanzashi or hairpin is over 100 years old and in best condition of some we have seen, it is a gorgeously handmade piece. The Bira-bira style kanzashi are the type with the long cut hanging metal pieces, sometimes flat cut, sometimes in links. They are also called fluttering or dangling style, these are composed of metal strips attached by rings to the body of the ornament so that they move independently, pleasantly tinkling. With this lovely kanzashi, on one side of the main piece are several different types of popular Japanese flowers handworked into the metal. On the other side, I am not sure of the design but looks like floating leaves. The chains are long, and on each chain is another piece of handworked metal with what appears to be a chrysanthemum. The bira bira are connected to the main piece no top with metal loops, as are the pieces on the end of the chains. This is quite an unusual piece, especially the condition for its age. It is not missing any pieces chains or links. It does not have any tarnish but it does have patina, so it has been preserved well during its time and cared for. I know that there is some silver content although low in many pieces, I have not yet tested this one but it does not attract a magnet and from another similar piece I recently saw, possibly about 400. so not sure but hope to get to that soon as well, as In the last year we have collected quite a few antique kanzashi of different styles, some needing some minor polishing and restoration, which Sharon hopes to eventually achieve without losing the patina which I should be able to do, at the end of the sticks.
SIZE: Length- 4.6 in or 11.8 cm long on pin side, chain side a little longer about 5 inches
See our many other kanzashi and kogai hair pins of all materials in our store!
About the metal materials used for Kanzashi. The main metal usually was silver and used very frequently, sometimes copper and iron, and brass was also the popular material. When the Kanzashi was made of brass, silver was sometimes plated on the metal in order to add beauty, or high quality. Gold itself might be used for the special ordered Kanzashi. Silver made Kanzashi was often gold plated fully or partially on the surface and it weighs heavier when compared to brass made ones. Silver and silver alloy products are now at present seen oxidized but if polished the original luster is revived. A large numbers of Kanzashi by various kinds of designs were produced especially after the middle era of Edo period and was continued to Meiji and Taisho eras (1850 ~ 1920), that means Kanzashi was a kind of mass production items. It was usual way not to mark the material name such as (silver or gold) except the special occasion for the high valued Kanzashi . I never tested these, and feel I probably need to do so now, as I suspect there is silver I did not realize before.
History of the Kanzashi
Kanzashi were first used in Japan during the Jōmon period. During that time, a single thin rod or stick was considered to have mystical powers which could ward off evil spirits, so people would wear them in their hair. This is also when some of the first predecessors of the modern Japanese hair comb began to appear. During the Nara period, a variety of Chinese cultural aspects and items were brought to Japan, including zan (written with the same Chinese character as kanzashi) and other hair ornaments. During the Heian period, the traditional style of putting hair up was changed to wearing it long, tied back low. It was at this time that kanzashi began to be used as a general term for any hair ornament, including combs and hairpins.
During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the hairstyles changed from the taregami 垂髪, or long straight hair, to the wider variety of Japanese hair 日本髪 Nihongami) which make more use of hair ornaments. Kanzashi came into wide use during the Edo period, when hairstyles became larger and more complicated, using a larger number of ornaments. Artisans began to produce more finely crafted products, including some hair ornaments that could be used as defensive weapons. During the latter part of the Edo period, the craftsmanship of kanzashi reached a high point, with many styles and designs being created (see Types of kanzashi, below).
Tsumami kanzashi has been officially designated as a traditional Japanese handcraft in the Tokyo region since 1982. Traditionally trained professional artisans typically undergo five to ten years of apprenticeship; from 2002 to 2010, their estimated number in the country decreased from fifteen to five However, the petal-folding technique has become a popular hobby, due to instructional books, kits, and lessons from sources such as the Tsumami Kanzashi Museum in Shinjuku. Some students have bypassed the traditional apprenticeship system to establish themselves as independent professional artisans of tsumami kanzashi in Japan. Currently, the use of kanzashi has declined significantly in favor of more Western hairstyles. The most common use of kanzashi now is in Shinto weddings and use by maiko (apprentice geisha).
Nowadays, kanzashi are most often worn by brides; by professional kimono wearers such as geisha, tayū and yujo; or by adepts in Japanese tea ceremony and ikebana. However, there is currently a revival among young Japanese women who wish to add an elegant touch to their business suit.
From and See Wikipedia for more about the 12 different types
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