Binyeo was used to fix hair and coronets on the head but it was also used as a decorative ornament. It came in many different materials such as gold, silver, nickel, brass, pearl, jade, amber, coral, wood, bamboo, or animal bone. A commoner’s binyeo was made of wood or animal bones.
Only the upper class and the royals were able to use a binyeo made of gold and silver and decorated with jewels all of which had a high intrinsic value.
The hairpin was made of various materials and had elaborate motives, which carried symbolic meanings. In many cases it was worn to symbolize one’s authority or to indicate one’s social rank.
They could be also divided according their shapes; a jam and a chae. The jam is a normal stick-shaped binyeo and chae is a tong-shaped binyeo with decorations. Binyeo was allowed only for married women.
It could also be classified by the design of its head. People in the Joseon Dynasty liked to decorate hairpins with motives found in nature. The heads of hairpins were fashioned in shapes of, among others, phoenix, dragon, mandarian duck, plum blossom, bird, bamboo, lotus bud, magnolia, pheony, pomegranate or chrysanthemum.
The jam were referred to as yongjam, bongjam, jukjam, mokryeokjam, maejukjam , or jukjeoljam depending on the decoration on the top of binyeo . The materials, shapes, sizes, and patterns of binyeo vary greatly.
The yongjam is a hairpin with a dragon shaped engraving on one end, and was exclusively for the queen’s use.
A phoenix shaped pin called bongjam was used extensively because it symbolizes good fortune, especially as a decoration for the female of the royal household such as princesses and concubines.
Binyeos are usually used by women, but they are also used by men to fix their sangtu (topknot) in place.
If you’re interested in this type of binyeo you can visit my previous post about sangtugwan here: