An unusual asymmetric design Victorian mourning hair comb in celluloid and French Jet
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 5 ins w (18 x 13 cm) decorative part 4 ins h (10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: French jet, celluloid (an early collectible synthetic)
Here we have a handsome and unusual asymmetric styled French Jet mourning hair comb. The basis of the comb is black celluloid, and the asymmetric design dates it to the last part of the 19th century. It is set with faceted “jewels” or French Jet, which is actually black glass.
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 photograph shows several illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts the kinds of ornaments and garments which were worn during a period of mourning,.
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.
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. One of these was French jet.
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