A handsome Victorian hair comb with pique and mother of pearl inlay
CONDITION: heading does show some wear commensurate with age, no breaks
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4¼ ins w (7.5 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850 - 1880
MATERIALS: tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, silver
Here we have a large and handsome example of a classic hinged mid Victorian hair comb. The main feature is that the heading is adjustable, being attached to the prongs by a flexible hinge of gilt metal, which allows it to rotate through 90 or more degrees. coiffure. This attractive type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, within or covering the chignon.
The comb is made from the dark variety of tortoiseshell and has a wide narrow rectangular heading. This is inlaid with a design of small mother of pearl pieces of irregular shapes. These morsels are contained within two acutely pointed triangular frames which are outlines with silver pique dots. A silver embellishment, which also frames mother of pearl inlay, sits in the centre of the heading.
Such combs were designed to be worn in the back of the hairdressing, within or above the chignon. Pictures 8 and 9 are a compilation of Victorian carte de visite from the mid Victorian period c 1870s- 880s. They show how these hinged combs with a fold down heading could be placed according to the fancy of the wearer.
This comb may well have been worn for secondary mourning which was an important social custom in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Strict mourning etiquette forbad the use of personal ornaments in deep mourning, save for those of dark and dull appearance. The material of choice was, of course, Whitby Jet. Other dark materials such as dyed horn, Vulcanite, black celluloid and this dark form of natural tortoiseshell were often used as a substitute for genuine Whitby jet when that supply began to fail.
When gently heated, usually by insertion in hot water, natural organic materials (such as horn or tortoiseshell) soften to permit the inlaying of small pieces of metal or other substances. When cool, the ground material contracts to hold the pieces in tightly in place without the need for adhesive.
Pique continued to be used as a decorative treatment into the 20th century. However these later examples tend to be simply a mechanical repetition of dots forming geometric patterns. They are a pale shadow of earlier examples.
If this item includes any CITES Appendix I materials, all documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export will be included with it at shipment if requested.
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