What is Tian-tsui? Unique Kingfisher Jewellery

What is Tian-tsui?


ian-tsui is the art of using Kingfisher feathers to decorate jewellery and other objects. This painstaking technique originated in China has been used for over 2,000 years, yet it is relatively unknown outside the country.

The process to create these intricate objects begins by collecting the feathers from the Kingfisher bird. The feathers are then carefully cut into shape, then placed into gilt silver frames. Finally, the feathers are secured in place by a glue. The effect is similar to that of a cloisonné enamel, however no enamel can come close to the magical iridescence of the Kingfisher bird.



These intensely blue feathers also will not fade over time! This is because the colour is not from a pigment contained within the feather, but from the way light refracts through microscopic structures within called photonic crystals.

A kingfisher bird from Cambodia.

More about the Tian-tsui technique

The most expensive pieces of tian-tsui were crafted with feathers from a particular species of King Fisher from Cambodia. This lead to a great influx of wealth from the export of the feathers to China, and funded the construction of temples, such as Angor Wat.



The finest pieces of tian-tsui were strictly reserved for royalty, or high ranking Chinese officials. In turn, the end of this breathtaking art form would come with the Chinese revolution during the 1940’s. However, there are artists reviving this traditional method.



Today Creative Director of Shang Tang Peony, Sara Zhang, uses ethically sourced feathers from a King Fisher sanctuary to decorate her fine jewellery collection. She is breathing new life and form to an ancient technique.

Modern Tian-tsui jewelry from Shang Tang Peony

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