The kerosang (Kerongsang in Malay) brooch is part of Peranakan jewelry. Peranakan means ‘local born’ in Malay and refer to individuals whare of mixed Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage. The Peranakan people were also known as Straits Chinese, as these individuals were oftendescendants of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca, Malaysia, and the coastal areas of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia around the 14th century (British controlled Staits Settlements). Peranakan men are known as Babas and Peranakan women are known as Nonyas or Nyonyas. While some Peranakans have retained many of their particular cultural practices, many have assimilated into the larger Chinese community today.
Important to mention is that not all Peranakans were only of Chinese ancestry, but there was a small but significant community of Peranakan Indians known as Chitty Melaka. Historians claim that the origins of the Peranakan Indians were evolved around the same time as the Peranakan Chinese when Tamil merchants started to reside in the Straits Settlements. The Jawi Peranakan community was another notable Peranakan group of non-Chinese descent comprising Straits-born Muslims of mixed Indian (especially Tamil) and Malay origin.
The decline in Peranakan culture can partly be explained by the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II, as it hit the wealthy Peranakans hard and thereafter ry plays an important role during weddings, events and other ceremonies. Moreover, just likemany other cultures, the Peranakans used jewelry to showcasevalue, beauty, style, symbolism, wealth and status. The jewelry reflects the state of wealth of the community and the rise of the Peranakans in the late 19th to early 20th century and the subsequent decline of the fortunes of the Peranakans after World War Two.
Traditionally, the Kerosang brooches had two main functions; it should fasten the baju kebaya, which is a traditional lightly woven embroidered blouse or jacket worn by Peranakan women and it should display your family’s wealth status. The size and quality of a Peranakan lady’s kerosang was a sign of her husband’s wealth and status in the community during important functions.
Picture of how the brooches were worn:
The kerosang brooches contained designs in accordance with a number of popular motifs in Peranakan culture, such as the dragon, birds, phoenix, flowers, stars, and fruit such as grapes and peaches, with each symbol having a particular meaning and significance relative to both the wearer and the occasion.
Kerosangs usually comes in sets of three. It consists of a larger central brooch also known as Ibu, which means the mother Kerosang and two smaller brooches known as the Anak known as the child Kerosang. The symbolic meaning of mother and child were inspired by the presence and memory of big family trees. It is a way of honoring your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Each family will branch into smaller families, but still have the strong ties and links to the immediate basic family unit. Therefore, a kerosang set is passed down in the family with each pin going to one child, with the thought that the children would hold pieces of their history as a unit. The passing down of each Anak explains why we find ‘loose’ or incomplete pieces today!
We searched for the auctioned kerosang brooches in the last two decades. See sold items below:
Sold at Webbs auction in 2017 for an estimate between $18,000 - $ 22,000
Sold at Christie’s in 2000 for an estimate between 7,000 - 11,000 SGD ( 4,352 - 6,839 EUR)
Sold at Sotheby’s for 137,500 HKD ( 14,683 EUR)
Sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 for 68,750 HKD ( 7,341 EUR)
Sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 for 199,500 HKD ( 21,304 EUR)
Queen Elizabeth wearing a Peranakan style brooch by Thomis Kwan. It was presented by the Singapore Government to the Queen as a gift for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Currently we hold a kerosang brooch in our ownership and is pictured down below. *Will be listed upon request!
Thank you for reading!
Made by Sjue Jing Yao (Assistant, Antique Castle Rings)
Carpenter, B. & Richter, A. 2011, Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore.
Encyclopædia Britannica 2014, Peranakan, EncyclopædiaBritannica, United Kingdom, viewed 24 April 2016, <http://www.britannica.com/topic/Peranakan>.
Lotoski, A. 2009. ‘Baba Bling: The Peranakans and Their Jewellery’, PASSAGE, July/August, pp. 14.
Tong, L. 2014, Straits Chinese Gold Jewellery, Pinang Peranakan Mansion Sdn Bhd, Penang, Malaysia.