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ITALIAN SILVER HAIR-PIN: THE SPERADA
Women put particular care into the style in
which their hair is cut and arranged. The hairpin is a
common adornment used to hold the hair together, especially
at nape of the neck.
In the Brianza (an area on the Northern Italy region of
Lombardy) the use of this device has ancient origins and
finds its roots in the numerous pins (spilloni) of the
Bronze Age found in peat deposits and in the 'HASTA
CAELIBARIS' or 'aghi crinali' (a thin needle enlarged at
the top) found in many Ancient Roman graves.
A characteristic hair arrangement of Brianza women was the 'sperada', used also by Lucia
Mondella, the feminine protagonist of the romance
'I Promessi sposi'
(The Betrothed), masterpiece of the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, published in 1827.
This is Lucia's description on Chapter II:
'Lucia had just come forth adorned from head to foot by the hands of her mother. Her friends were
stealing glances at the bride, and forcing her to show herself; while she, with the somewhat warlike
modesty of a rustic, was endeavouring to escape, using her arms as a shield for her face, and holding
her head downwards, her black pencilled eyebrows seeming to frown, while her lips were smiling. Her
dark and luxuriant hair, divided on her forehead with a white and narrow parting, was united behind in
many - circled plaitings, pierced with long silver pins, disposed around, so as to look like an aureola,
or saintly glory, a fashion still in use among the Milanese peasant - girls.'
The 'sperada' ceased to be used at the beginning of the
20th century and now it survives only to be worn in appropriate
The 'sperada' is a silver ornamentation made by several pins
forming a sunburst, threaded on the hairs wrapped on a
horizontal olive-topped pin.
The 'sperada' was made of:
- a pin with two olives at its end, named 'sp¨ntun' or 'g¨ggiun';
- many pointed pins, named 'spadinn', given by the fiancÚ to
his betrothed (before betrothal the girls wore hair loose);
- some other pins, sometimes in the shape of a spoon, named 'fuseii'
or 'spazza¨recc', were the gift of the bridegroom on the
marriage day and on other special occasions as the birth of a child
A rich 'sperada' composed by one 'sp¨ntun' or 'g¨ggiun', 23 'spadinn' and 6
'fuseii' or 'spazza¨recc'
There are few (or no) pieces of antique silver 'sperada' available for
sale. The surviving pieces are a precious heritage preserved with close attention by
families, folkloric groups and public institutions.
This is a 19th century silver 'spadinn' made in the Regno Lombardo Veneto (presumably
Milan). It is hallmarked with the 'incudine' (anvil) mark used for 800/1000 silver in the
period 1810/1872 and a clear silversmith mark (not identified).
The 'spadinn' is 6 3/4 in. wide (cm. 17) and, surprisingly, was found and bought through a
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