A handsome faux tortoiseshell hair comb with asymmetric gold pique design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 x 3 ins (13 x 7.5 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell, gilt pique
Here we have a comb with a wedge shaped profile of a type which was popular in the period around the turn of the 20th century. The comb is made in beautifully marked faux tortoise shell with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground. It has four long tines which are all in good condition and nicely pointed, not broken or chipped.
The decorative aspect of this pretty comb is in the pique inlay which is applied to one corner of the heading in an asymmetric design. Pique was one of the favourite techniques for decorating Victorian combs. Pique proper is inlaid into tortoiseshell or horn. However by the late 19th century brass metal dots were being inlaid into faux tortoiseshell for a similar effect and were produced by machinery.
The collage picture shows sitters from contemporary photographs, revealing the fashionable hair style and wearing similar wedge shaped 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.
The surface of the material of beautifully marked with the typical “tortoise” style mottling and is a very faithful imitation of genuine shell. 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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