A handsome faux tortoiseshell back comb with gold inlay and ceramic decorative roundel.
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4¼ ins w (10 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
This beautiful back comb is made from a dark variety of celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It is decorated with a beautiful Art Nouveau inspired design in gilding and inset brass. The back of the heading indicated that the inlay is done in 18 kt gold.
The design features a leaf motif which is inlaid in gold leaf. This is further emphasized by brilliant clear rhinestones which appear to have lost none of their sparkle over the years.
The most prominent feature of the heading is the ceramic painted medallion which is set into the centre of it. The metal circle is attached to the celluloid base by a rivet which is sunk into the material and visible from the back. It features a pseudo 18th century lady who is being wooed by a gentleman.
The first Art Nouveau ornaments were hand made and carved from clarified horn and other materials. As the Art Nouveau style gained in popularity, a whole class of popular jewellery was mass produced this reproduced the typical motifs of the genre, but was produced by machine. These latter are usually made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with decorations of pierced brass or silver tone metal, set with glass or ceramic stones.
Combs like this were known as back combs because they were intended to be worn at the back of the head. They are typically deeply curved to fit the skull and are typically wider than they are tall. They have a broad shallow heading which gives scope for some kind of decorative treatment.
The final picture is taken from a popular coloured postcard of the early 20th century and shows a sitter dressed in exotic oriental influenced fashion. She is wearing a large and elaborate back comb in her hair.
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