This Philippines “kamagi” necklace actually 12 necklaces strung together. The places where each necklace comes together is marked by small, colored stones.
The individual necklaces are pretty impressive on their own. Because they are made of smooth, interlocking beads the necklaces are flexible, almost snakelike (as you can see in the second photo).
Pearls have long been considered a precious gem. They were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BCE! And we know they were used as adornment from ancient times because a fragment of pearl jewelry was found in a Persian princess’ sarcophagus dating to around 420 BCE.
This pair of ornaments and headdress were likely once worn by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the effective ruler of China during the later years of the Qing Dynasty. Click through the image gallery to see all three.
All three are exquisite. They who how Chinese decoration and symbolism were used to express rank. The myriad of pearls and gemstones mark that the wearer is one of the highest ranking women in Chinese society, while the phoenixes emerging from the surface represent the empress dowager specifically. Put together, a Chinese person in the early 1900s would have known immediately who the wearer was, and how important they were.