Like gold, silver is one of the most precious metals and at the same time relatively easy to work with. Art treasures made of silver have developed in China from a very early time.
The silver headpiece has a headband decorated in relief with a floral motif. Decorations of phoenix are built up above the band. Further up, on the front side is the view of what appears to be the main gate to the compound of a palace. Two attendants stand to both sides of a fish, and they are further accompanied by a pair of dragons. Surrounding the gate are auspicious clouds and more phoenixes. The whole crown is embellished by finials of jade, turquoise and other precious stones, though most of them have gone missing.
Dragon and phoenixes are the common motifs of the imperial crown. A crown belonged to the Wanli Emperor's Empress Xiaojing, excavated in 1958 from the Dingling Tomb near Beijing, which had three dragons and two phoenixes (height 35.5 cm, diameter 20 cm) but judging from the quality of the piece, this exquisite ornamental headpiece is more likely for religious purposes than use as part of an imperial costume.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, June 2004.