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antique peranakan jewellery
peranakan kerosang
antique diamond brooches pins

Antique Peranakan Kerosang Set, Art Nouveau

20k diamond three-piece brooch pin set of antique Peranakan jewellery.

Known as ‘kerosang rantey’ pins, these brooches that come in a set of three pins, used to fasten the button-free ‘kebaya’ (lightly woven blouse usually with embroidery). These sets are unique for being detachable, ladies would style them in their hair, or wear as separate brooch pins in one outfit.

This ‘kerosang’ set is one of the larger sets, each pin measuring 5cm tall and 2.3cm wide. It is also a tall set, made in the Giardinetti style of Art Nouveau fashion.

More westernised than the Peranakan pieces made during the turn of the last century, this set is rare. The distinctive bouquet motif not seen in surviving sets of Peranakan jewellery. On each pin, 31 hand cleaved rose cut diamonds are set into tiny prongs that appear as flat dots.
Compared to other kerosang sets, this is an ornate piece. Nonetheless, the gold work intersperses thick and thin lines in its longitudinal form (this long form itself a rare construction in kerosang brooch pins). This organic touch saves the ornate brooch from being overly decorative, its Art Nouveau origins creatively constructed, yet one of a kind.
There is a hint of the harp in its design, where it is not unmerited to observe the musical echo of its beauty. The interconnecting rantey or chain looks to be a longitudinal clover!
This set would date to at least 90 years.
‘Kerosangs’ were inspired by the presence and memory of grand, ‘rowdy’ family trees. Each big family branched into many smaller families and the presence of many similar (or variegated motifs) pins bears intimacy to the relationships and hence, ‘links’, to the close ties that go beyond the immediate basic family unit.
The original idea is to pass down one pin to each child, so the children would hold pieces of their history as a unit. It is interesting to note the class of a family in this regard. A rich matriarch would certainly have several sets to pass down to her children, each one probably receiving more than one set.
Sets as such retain their wholeness and move down the family tree as complete sets. Sometimes, many sets of very similarly designed trios exist in that generation, with each generation reflecting the fashions of its time.
Incidentally, it is believed today that a lady who could afford to have a set custom made for her implied a relative well off family or proper class. It is not every Peranakan Nonya who would have a set of ‘kerosang’ cast in gold – they would be gild and for that matter, the one and only set (if, at all) presented during marriage.
This explains why we find ‘loose’ or mismatched pins today. As you can imagine, intricate relationships spell intricate jewellery art, and expectedly, each affluent family will commission and envision increasingly intricate motifs.
If one examines a sample of these pins and notice the shapes and space they form, their repeated or uncommon motifs, you would realise exuberance stems from the fact that whim, like tradition, were studiously observed. It’s as if being Peranakans, they somehow seem to know that history is being made.

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