Pendant of a headdress

  • /
  • 19th century
  • Height: 63 cm / Width: not filled / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 64851
  • Weltmuseum Wien
  • © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM
One of the main pieces of the collection in the Weltmuseum Wien (former Museum of Ethnology Vienna) is a pectorale, part of the extraordinary headgear of the Khalcha women. The collector Hans Leder acquired this item on his second exploratory journey to Mongolia in 1899. It is a rare and very finely worked example consisting of coral beads, jade, rubies, brown glass flashed with gold, turquoise and silver ornaments in fine filigree. At the centre of this composition there is a silver ornament in the shape of (possibly) a double fish. A further ornament is the mystic knot (chang), which, like the double fish, is one of the Eight Auspicious Signs of Buddhism. The mystic knot is frequently used, yet its origin is not entirely clear. It is nonetheless considered to be derived from the swastika. This endless knot symbolizes eternity, with neither end nor beginning. The cash ornament is used in this piece as a connecting link to the coral strings. It symbolizes progress and is thought to have the power to ward off evil spirits. Particular pieces of this sort of jewellery were worn according to the headgear which reached down onto the breasts. This headgear was worn by married women, mostly women of nobility, throughout their lives. It was given to them by their parents on the morning of their wedding day as a dowry. The headgear with its ornaments and precious materials is symbolic of marital status, wealth, and affiliation. It was used in this form until about 1938.
Pendant of a headdress
/ Mongolia / 19th century / Weltmuseum Wien / © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM