A handsome mid Victorian hinged mourning comb with faceted French jet beads
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 3 ins w (10 x 7.5 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn, French Jet
Here we have a classic hinged mourning comb of the mid Victorian period.
The comb is made from steer horn which has been dyed black, and is further embellished on the openwork heading with faceted roundels of French Jet. French jet is a glittering form of black glass which was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia, in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was extremely popular for jewellery making in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
The importance of Victorian mourning etiquette upon the production of jewellery and personal ornaments was very marked. This etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the UK. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was dyed horn and another was French Jet.
The final illustration is compiled from contemporary sources and shows a number of sitters and examples of mourning jewellery, and hair accessories
The main feature in this type of comb is that the heading is adjustable. The comb is technically sophisticated, being attached to the prongs by a flexible hinge of gilt metal, which allows it to rotate through 90 or more degrees. This enables the ornament to be adjusted to various positions within the coiffure. Such combs are of the type which may be worn either in the back of the hairdressing or above the forehead as a tiara, In this latter case the prongs would be concealed among the front hair.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century. It was cheap and could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours and clarified so as to make it almost translucent. This gives it the attractive colour of honey, and is a feature of many combs of the period. It could also be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a plastic manner. Horn is an extremely flexible material, and when heated it can be bent, pierced and stretched into all manner of forms, almost like plastic.
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