A pretty single pronged “hair dagger” with pique inlay
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 8 ins h x 2 ins w (20 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: gold inlay, faux tortoiseshell
Here we have one of those delightful single pronged hair pins or picks which dates from around the turn of the 20th century. The ornament has a long pointed shaft of faux tortoiseshell and an asymmetric heading design that features scrolled openwork. This design is further embellished by gold pique work.
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 examples from contemporary sources of such novel hair accessories, and how they were worn.
Towards the end of the 19th century the fashion in hairdressing changed to a softer more feminine look. The late Victorian and Edwardian styles were simpler and this in turn led to a taste for lighter and more delicate hair accessories. Some of these hair accessories had only one or two tines. They were worn piercing the high chignon in such a manner that the decorative top was visible from all angles.
Consequently the hair accessories of the late-Victorian period are often extremely novel and eccentric in their design. All manner of strange weapon-like motifs, such as swords, bows and arrows, swords and daggers are regularly seen in engraved fashion plates of the period. These kinds of ornaments were even known as “hair swords”. It is as though no object was too odd or unusual to decorate milady’s coiffure.
Typically they have a long pointed shaft which pierces the hair. The top or heading is usually decorated in some fancy manner, with pierced work, gilded metal, or stones. These single pronged hair pins appear in a wide variety of materials such as faux tortoiseshell, horn, or celluloid. The best are decorated with materials such as French Jet or mother of pearl.
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