An unusual Victorian steer horn tiara or headband in undulating design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 2 ins h x 10 ins around the curve (5 x 26 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1860s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here is a very unusual mid Victorian headband or tiara style hair accessory of a type which I have previously seen only in photographs!
The ornament is made from steer horn which has been left in its natural semi opacity and dyed a mid brown colour. It is then formed into an undulating semi-circle which is flexible to a degree and can be stretched to accommodate different measurements.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day. The fashion seems to have been to wind a ribbon or piece of fabric (probably of some bright or contrasting colour) between the spaces provided by the design. The resulting headband was then placed in front of the chignon tiara style.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for combs and hair accessories in the 19th century. Not only was the material cheap, but also it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours and was often used to resemble the much more expensive tortoiseshell. Horn could also be clarified so as to be almost translucent. This gives it the attractive colour of honey, and is a feature of many combs and hair ornaments of the period. Finally horn could be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a flexible manner much like out modern plastics.
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