A striking French Jet Victorian mourning hair comb with spiky top profile
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3½ ins h x 3½ ins w (8 x 8 cms) decorative part 1½ ins high (4 cms)
MATERIALS: dyed steer horn, French Jet
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
Here is a striking Victorian mantilla style comb which was probably used for mourning.
The comb mount is made from steer horn which has been dyed black. It has a pierced heading with a row of upstanding points which would have shown from all angles when the ornament was worn above a chignon. It is further embellished with faceted balls of the substance known as French Jet.
The final illustration shows a selection of sitters wearing similar ornaments and is taken from contemporary sources of the later 19th century. This shows how such high topped combs could be placed to be visible from all angles.
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 with a long veil hanging from the bonnet. 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. Among these were French jet and dyed horn.
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.
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