Dian Cui, Traditional Chinese Jewelry Making Crafts

Dian Cui (literally translated from Chinese mandarin) is a traditional Chinese crafts for making gold and silver jewelry. It plays the role of embellishment and beatification for jewelry. Cui, is the feather of Kingfisher namely. The technique is the perfect combination of traditional metal workmanship and feather crafts, which is produced as the following procedures: firstly make base of different patterns with gold or gilded metal, then inlay the bright blue feather-like materials carefully in the base to be made into all kinds of jewelry items.


Colors of the feather-like material would vary with the location and crafts, due to the natural texture and dreamy color of the material, the finished works will be vivid and lively. Though without the gorgeous beauty of gem products, accessories made with Dian Cui have its own plain beauty, which would embody the spirits of paying attention to details and emphasizing on fine and implicit beauty of oriental area.


Materials of the crafts

Kingfisher is also called “emerald” as well. The bird which is of blue body and ventral brown would perch and wait next to the water for long time with straight posture. Whenever seeing a fish or shrimp pass by, it would dash into water to capture the creature with mouth rapidly and fiercely. Sometime it would fly above the water about five to seven meters high with bowing head to look at the water, which looks like it is hanging on the half-air. The bird would have it nest built in the sand of field and embankment, which is created like a tunnel and about 60 centimeters deep. The kingfisher gained its name “Cui Niao” in China due to its dazzling and glittering characteristics of the feather. Due to the protection of the bird recent years, the feather of the bird is avoided, and some other alternation which is like this kind of feathers is applied.147

Producing crafts

Jewelry made with Dian Cui is of excellent gloss and bright color; what’s more, the color will never fade. However, the crafts are not that easy to be accomplished. Firstly, a base made with gold and silver metals which are arranged in the shape of flower would be needed, with a groove welded with gold wire along the edge of flower shape follows, then paint right amount of glue in the middle section and skillfully paste the feather-like objects onto the base to form auspicious and exquisite patterns. More elements such as gate, red coral, jade and pearls would be added, which would add more charm of elegance and nobility to the wearer. The crafts was alternated with special ribbon or papers in Qing dynasty, while substitutes would be used in contemporary society.


Historical development

The Chinese ancient costume of the emperor took the feather of kingfisher as decoration. After long time of development, the skill can still bring us much shock. Therefore, the crafts “Dian Cui” prevails a long time in the gold and silver jewelry manufacturing industry and its techniques has been improved continuously, which reached the highest point in the era of Qian Long, one greatest emperor of Qing dynasty. Due to the national animal protection reasons, feathers of the kingfisher are banned to be used, substitutes of the feathers of current Dian Cui jewelry are applied. However, like many age-old techniques, people who can manipulate the crafts becomes less, it risks being lost forever.


by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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