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Hair pin

  • Place of origin:

    Papal States (made)
    Cervaro (worn)

  • Date:

    1815-1867 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93 mezzanine, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 75, shelf C, box 3

Hair pins were the sign of a respectable married woman in Italy. They were first worn at the wedding, and after that on feast days and special occasions. Only the unmarried and prostitutes wore their hair loose.

Hair pins were worn throughout the country, but the most numerous and interesting come from the north. They were usually worn at the back of the head, piercing and securing the thick braids of hair. They were inserted diagonally or horizontally, so that the decorative heads stuck out at the side of the face. The number of pins worn varied by district. In some places they were worn all round the head, like a fan, but the largest were usually worn singly or in pairs.

Like all Italian traditional jewellery, the individual hair pins carried many meanings. The tops were often shaped like amulets to promote fertility or avert danger. This hair pin has a head in the form of a clenched fist with the thumb protruding between the first and second fingers. This is a very old design, dating back to Roman times or earlier, which was used to avert the evil eye. The pin has silver marks which show it was made in the Papal States between 1815 and 1870. Hair pins of this design are typical of the Lazio region.

It was bought as part of the Castellani collection of Italian Peasant Jewellery at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867.

Physical description

Hair pin with round stem and decorative head in the shape of a hollow fist, with the thumb protruding between the first and second fingers.

Place of Origin

Papal States (made)
Cervaro (worn)


1815-1867 (made)



Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Crossed keys with mitre above, in domed frame.
On upper part of stem. Mark for 889 standard silver, Papal States, 1815-1870.


Length: 27.6 cm, Width: 1.7 cm, Depth: 1.1 cm

Descriptive line

Silver hair pin with a clenched fist (manufica) as the head, Papal States (Italy), 1815-1867.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'Italian Jewellery as worn by the Peasants of Italy', Arundel Society, London, 1868, Plate 10
For a similar example, see:
Catalogue, ‘l'Ornamento Prezioso’, Rome/Milan, 1986, Tab.29, fig. 172



Subjects depicted



Jewellery; Metalwork; Amulets; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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