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19th Century Coral Mandarin Court Beads Necklace

19th Century Coral Mandarin Court Beads Necklace



DATE: Mandarin Court Beads, c.1810 - Necklace, c.1910

An exceptionally rare antique necklace made up of stunning coral Mandarin court beads. Strung in three tiers, the beads are made from coral and hornbill, carved to represent tightly coiled dragons. They would have originally been part of a Mandarin court necklace - Chao Zhu - worn as an indicator of rank in the Qing dynasty, allowing members of the Chinese royal family and court an opportunity to show their status and taste. Beads were made from different materials and colours to denote different statuses in the court: red and pink coral were reserved for the highest ranking, then blue, then white/translucent for the third rank, and any other colour would denote the fourth and below. Pearls were reserved for the Emperor and Empress only. The original Mandarin necklaces were always comprised of 108 beads split into four sections of 27 beads.

This three tier necklace was made in the early 20th century. After the Qing court was dissolved in 1912, many of the court necklaces ended up in the USA and Europe, and were incorporated into new pieces of jewellery such as this one. The enamel and silver filigree beads were likely included to give enough length for the three tiers, and are not contemporaries of the coral and hornbill beads which date from the very early 19th century. By the 1920s, many Western design houses began incorporating carved coral, jade, lapis, and other semi-precious stones into their designs, meaning that although stylistically they're far from being Deco, they have become associated with this movement.


Carved Coral and Hornbill


Wearable length: 19 inches

Coral beads: 1.1cm approx.




Clasp stamped SILVER


Very good, some light wear commensurate with age. Some minor losses to the enamel


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