A striking late Victorian back comb in black celluloid with French Jet adornment
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4¼ ins h x 5 ins w (11 x 13 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s - 1900
MATERIALS: celluloid, French jet.
Here is a large and impressive Victorian mourning hair comb which is made as a back comb. The foundation is of glossy black celluloid adorned with numerous pieces of faceted French jet. 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.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, above, below or within the chignon. It is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. These combs are usually wider than they are high and often have an elaborate heading or top decorated in some way. This comb shows jet pieces of various shapes and sizes, which is usually regarded as indicating a quality piece.
The collage photograph shows several illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts ornaments and costume intended to be worn by those in mourning.
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. French jet and black celluloid were commonly employed as substitutes.
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