In 1958, a gold crown was excavated at Ding Mausoleum, consisting of 13 tombs of the Ming Dynasty. It was made of 518 extremely thin gold threads of 0.2 cm in diameter. On the crown two dragons playing with pearl were carved and each squama was carefully inlaid. The technology of making this crown, is called “Huasi Xiangqian” ,or filigree inlays .
Filigree inlays, also called "refined metal crafts", are made of gold, silver and other materials inlaid with various kinds of precious stones, pearls, or woven patterns. They fall into two categories: filigree, where gold and silver are made into thin threads and then transformed into craftworks using such techniques as piling and weaving; and inlays, where thin gold and silver strips are hammered into wares, carved with decorative patterns and then inlayed with precious stones.
Filigree inlays took shape as early as in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), achieved super craftsmanship in the Ming Dynasty and enjoyed great developments in the Qing Dynasty. As a result, many famous filigree inlay works have continued to emerge, many becoming articles of tribute for the imperial courts.
The craft of filigree inlays is the most famous in Beijing and Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province. Filigree inlay works in Beijing feature weaving and piling, and dian cui, which refers to pasting blue and green leathers of kingfishers onto gold and silver wares for a better effect. Beijing filigree inlay craftworks were awarded the Excellent Design Award at a Southeast Asian jewelry design contest.
The craft of filigree inlays in Chengdu mainly includes silver filigree. The silver enameling, gold-and-silver inlaid craftworks in the city are very unique. Chengdu's filigree inlay craftworks mainly include vases, compotes, smoker's sets, jewels, etc.
"A Phoenix Spreads Its Wings" and "A Peacock in His Pride" -- two large wall hangings in the Sichuan Hall of the Great Hall of the People -- are filigree inlay masterworks by Sichuan artists.