A handsome late Victorian or Edwardian back comb in faux tortoiseshell with gilt and stone embellishments
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 5 ins w (7.5 x 13 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, metal, glass stones
Here we have a beautiful late Victorian or Edwardian back comb. This is an ornament made in a watered down version of the Art Nouveau style.
It is made from a dark variety of celluloid faux tortoiseshell which has a wide narrow heading. Onto this is overlaid a complex Art Nouveau inspired design in brass which features conventional scrollwork and interlaced lines. This metal plaque is attached to the celluloid base by rivets which are sunk into the material. The design is further enhanced by faceted pink rhinestones.
We can see that the design, although ornate, is somewhat formal and conventional. Such ornaments appealed to the more conservative wearer who wanted to be in fashion, but not the extreme of the mode. 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.
The final illustration is taken from a fashion illustration of the mid 1890s and shows an evening hair dressing which is supported by a large back comb in the current manner.
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 usually wider than they are tall. They have a broad shallow heading which gives scope for some kind of decorative treatment.
Such combs were at their most popular around the turn of the 20th century and were used to support the fluffed out Gibson Girl hairdressing and the large hats of the period.
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