Kanzashi are fabricated from a wide range of materials such as lacquered wood, gold and silver plated metal, tortoiseshell, silk and jade. A number of hair ornaments were also developed and used as defensive weapons in case of an emergency.
There are many varieties and many styles of wearing them. The way in which a Geisha wears her kanzashi indicates her status immediately to an informed audience; according to the type and location of the kanzashi. Maiko (apprentice geisha) usually wear more numerous and elaborate kanzashi than older geisha and progress through several hairstyles where the kanzashi must be worn in a fixed pattern.
Bira bira - also called Fluttering or Dangling style, these are composed of metal strips attached by rings to the body of the ornament so that they move independently, pleasantly tinkling (which is sometimes accentuated by additional bells) or long chains of silk flowers called shidare.
Kogai - rods of Becco ( tortoiseshell or artificial ) or other materials such as ceramics or metals. Kogai means sword in Japanese. This is appropriate because many Kogai Kanzashi are formed from a pin and a sleeve, like a sword and its sheath. They are often sold as a set with an accompaning kushi comb.
Kushi are comb kanzashi rather than pins like the majority of kanzashi. These are usually rounded combs made of tortoiseshell or lacquered wood, often with inlaid mother of pearl or gilding, placed into a mage (bun-style hairdo). The spine of the comb is often wide in order to allow maximum space for the design, and in many cases, the design will extend into the teeth. Also, there are "flower-combs" called hanagushi which are made by glueing folded pieces of silk to a wooden base comb.
Kanoko Dome - are heavily jewelled accessories crafted with some or all of the following: gold, silver, tortoiseshell, jade, coral, pearls and other semi-precious stones. While the general shape is rounded, they are also found in other shapes, with flowers and butterflies being the most popular. The kanoko dome is worn at the back of the wareshinobu hairstyle of the junior maiko and has two prongs that hold it securely in the "mage".
Ōgi - also called Princess style, they are metal, fan-shaped and kamon-imprinted kanzashi with aluminium streamers held in place by a long pin. These are usually worn by maiko in the hair just above the temple. Very junior maiko wear two.