Its Chinese name literally translates as "dipping of blue" and dian cui is an ancient handicraft technique involving applying the feathers of kingfisher birds onto the surface of gold or gilt silver. The exact time when it originated is disputed today, but the decorative method, extremely popular among ladies from the aristocratic class, reached its zenith during the reign of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Qianlong (1736-1796).
Often referred to in period novels, dian cui can be best appreciated in the form of female accessories from the breathtakingly extravagant "phoenix crowns" - usually for rich brides - to the less ostentatious but equally delicate hairpins and earrings.
The reason that kingfisher is preferred over any other bird is because its feather could retain its color and luster for decades, even centuries - a unique quality lacking in its fellow plumed creatures. This has proven to be both dian cui's doing and undoing, especially at a time when the avian species has long become a rarity, just like the men who practice this ancient handicraft.
As light as a feather