A good value lot of Spanish style hair combs in imitation tortoiseshell
CONDITION: both good vintage condition
SIZE: large comb 6¼ ins h x 4 ins w (15.5 x 10 cm): small comb 5 x 3¼ ins (13 x 8 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here we have a pair of nice Victorian Spanish mantilla style hair combs of the type which would probably have been worn for everyday.
The larger ornament has a wedge shaped heading with five tines. It has a very prominent “tiger stripe” design.
The slightly smaller companion piece is also made in a wedge shape with six tines, and is more convincingly made to resemble true tortoise type mottling.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top which stands proud of the top of the head is often called a mantilla comb.
The collage picture shows a number of sitters from contemporary photographs, revealing the fashionable hair style and wearing similar ornaments.
Many of the later 19th century the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. Some of them are very convincing and difficult to distinguish from the genuine material, and are skilfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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