Late Victorian French Jet and Celluloid Back Comb
SIZE: 3½ ins h x 4 ins w (9 x 10 cms)
CONDITION: Excellent no issues. Many beautiful Victorian and Edwardian combs and hairpins in this attractive and fragile material are found chipped and damaged or with missing pieces. This comb is in excellent condition and complete.
APPROXIMATE DATE: late 19th to early 20th century
MATERIALS: celluloid and French jet
This handsome French jet and celluloid back comb probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th century.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the back of the hairdressing, above, below or within the chignon. This type is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. These combs are usually wider than they are high and often have an elaborate heading or top decorated in some way.
This one has an elaborate upstanding gallery made up from faceted pieced of French jet which is secured to a metal framework which is typically enamelled in black. In this example different sizes and shapes of the jet have been utilised. We can see oval, round and square pieces and this combination is a sure sign of quality in a piece.
French jet was very fashionable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The sitter in the final picture, a contemporary Victorian photograph, is wearing a number of pieces of French jet jewellery. She has a complete suite of flower shaped ornaments comprising hair pins, earrings and a necklace. Not content with these ornaments, she also wears a high topped mantilla style hair comb behind her coronet plait.
French jet is a glittering form of black glass which has nothing to do with France, but was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia. In the late 19th and early 20th century it was extremely popular for jewellery making, especially mourning jewellery.
The importance of Victorian mourning etiquette upon the production of jewellery and personal ornaments was very marked. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the UK. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was French jet
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