In the history of human adornment the use of shells, particularly sea shells, predates the use of metals by many thousands of years. In modern times iridescent nacre (mother-of-pearl) has been used for a wide variety of items, including buttons, pistol grips, and Maozhang.

These two examples were made in identical fashion, and may be products of the same workshop. A suitably sized piece of nacre was glued to a pre-moulded plastic backing before final shaping. An aluminium bust of Mao was affixed to the front and the inscription was lightly engraved before painting. Although there is no clue to their place of manufacture, it was definitely somewhere with previous experience with nacre, and was probably located in or near a coastal city.

nacre nacre2

h. 19mm  w. 26mm   1.6g

h. 28mm  w. 20mm   2.5g