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Silver Filigree Comb and Hairpins

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Silver Filigree Comb and Hairpins, N.d.
Silver on Tortoiseshell and Wood
1 3/4 x 3 11/16 in. (4.5 x 9.4 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Filigree
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.19a,b,c

These Japanese hair ornaments were collected by the late Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh over decades. Angelyn’s husband, Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, presented the combs in her honor to the Scripps College collections in 2012. Most of these hair ornaments, or kanzashi, are made of bamboo or lightweight woods that have been lacquered; they date from the 18th century well into the 20th, when elaborate hairstyles included decorative combs (kushi) and hairpins (kogai). Matched sets of ornaments featured seasonal images, landscape scenes, as well as historical or fictional references. The combination of pine, bamboo (nanten), and plum blossom (shochikubai) designs were popular at New Year’s time. Cherry blossom patterns were worn in the spring, and chrysanthemums in the autumn. Some kanzashi were made with tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, bone, or precious metals. Hairpins with a ball ornament, or tama, were also color coordinated to the seasons, with the cool colors green and blue worn during the summer months and the warm colors red, orange, and gold used during the winter. --Bruce Coats, Professor of Art History and the Humanities


The comb is made of bekko (tortoiseshell) and silver filigree openwork. The hairpins, or kogai, are made of wood and silver filigree openwork.

Object Description
The comb's silver edging features a design of chrysanthemum and a woven bamboo basket pattern. The comb is a half-moon shape. The first hairpin (2013.7.19b) features a pattern of chrysanthemum and waves. Its length measures 15.4 cm. The stamp on both ends reads "ginjun", or "made of silver". The second hairpin (2013.7.19c) features the same chrysanthemum and bamboo basket patterns as the comb. Its length measures 15.2 cm. Both hairpins, or kogai, are a two-part, flared anvil shape. Dr. Juli Wolfgram notes that although the two hairpins "definitely came from the same maker," it is "very unusual" to have two kogai in a set. She deemed them a "questionable match."

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