The custom of wearing fingernail guards dates back to the nobility and upper class of ancient China. The wealthiest and most powerful members of society during this time were royalty, imperial court officials, land owners and successful merchants; all members of society who could comfortably grow their fingernails long, as their income was not derived by manual labor.
By the end of the Ching dynasty, circa the late 19th century, it had come into fashion for young men to grow the nail of their little finger especially long as a visual sign of status, wealth and power. To protect these elongated nails, and to further display their material success, elaborate cages of precious metals and stones were often worn.
Open Series, This Piece Sold.
Sterling silver, 14k yellow gold and garnet.
Charles Burnley, 2000.