A handsome faux tortoiseshell boxed set comprising a back comb and barrette
CONDITION: the silk hinge of the box is coming apart. The fastening of the barrette has some verdigris but is still in usable condition.
SIZE: comb 4 ins h x 4½ ins w (10 x 11 cms); barrette 1 ins h x 3 ins w (2.5 x 7.5 cms); box 5 x 6 ins (13 x 15 cms)
MATERIALS: celluloid, rhinestones
This is a handsome boxed back comb and matching barrette from a French maker.
The large back comb is made from a dark translucent variety of celluloid faux tortoiseshell which has a wide heading. Onto this is overlaid a complex Art Nouveau inspired design in gilding which is further enhanced by small clear rhinestones. A group of red rhinestones is set in a diamond centre just above the tines. The matching barrette has a complementary design.
The case is lined in white silk which is in good condition save for the fact that the section which joins the top and bottom is partly torn. The outside has a faux crocodile effect.
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.
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 sued to support the fluffed out Gibson Girl hairdressing and the large hats of the period.
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