A fine and elaborate French Jet mourning hair comb in excellent condition.
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4½ ins w (10 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s - 1900
MATERIALS: celluloid, metal, French Jet
Here is a very handsome late Victorian back comb of black celluloid which is topped with an elaborate design of French Jet. The jet pieces are made in a variety of shapes and sizes which is always the sign of a quality piece. I see squares as well as faceted roundels in three different sizes.
The heading comprises a black lacquered framework of metal which is attached to the heading and arises from it. To this are attached the faceted jet pieces which form the crested heading.
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.
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 when it was extremely popular for jewellery making. When the supply began to fail other materials were used as substitutes. One of these was French jet.
This comb may well have been worn for 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.
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