Many years ago, I was visiting a friend, Anne, whose father was the British Consul General in Dusseldorf ,Germany. Anne and I became friends when I was studying for a year at the University of Birmingham in England. She, too, was a student there.
Here parents had met in China at the beginning of World War 2, when her father was just starting out his career in the British Foreign Service. The family had also spent some time in Taiwan and had started to collect some interesting Chinese art, notably Chinese Nail Guards. Coincidently, while I was visiting, there was an exhibit at a museum about Chinese Nail Guards in the German/French City of Aachen/Aix la Chapelle. The city carries both a German and a French name because of its location just at the border with French speaking Belgium.
My friend Anne, her father, and I travelled to Aachen, about an hour away from Dusseldorf to visit this exhibit.
I had never seen anything these ring guards, which were worn by aristocratic Chinese women to show that they never had to do any manual labor. The last Empress of China wore them, for instance.
Most of the surviving nail guards have been made into pins and they are actually quite lovely. Here’s some photos.
What inspired this post was an article about a jewelry designer, Michelle Elie, who has designed modern versions of these nail guards for her Prim collection.
They still look a bit challenging to wear!
And I amazed at how vivid the experience of staying in Dusseldorf with Anne and her parents still is for me. It was more than 53 years ago!