A handsome faux tortoiseshell hair comb from the late Victorian period
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 x 4½ ins (18 x 11 cm) ornamental part is 3½ ins h (9 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here is a handsome celluloid faux tortoiseshell hair comb which dates from the last quarter of the reign of Victoria. The surface of the material of beautifully marked with the typical “tortoise” style mottling and is a very faithful imitation of genuine shell.
The ornament has a curved heading in which a number of blade like elements fan out from the base of the heading like the sticks of a fan. This design, in a fined form, was to become an iconic Art Deco design in the following decades.
The collage picture shows sitters from contemporary photographs, revealing the fashionable hair style and wearing similar ornaments.
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.
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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