A classic Regency period gilt metal tiara decorated with faceted coral beads
CONDITION: good vintage condition – no missing or broken beads
SIZE: 1 ins h x 6½ ins w (2.5 x 16 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1800s – 1820s
MATERIALS: ormolu, coral
This is a lovely late Georgian or Regency period tiara comb in filigree made from fire gilded brass. It is in excellent condition and still has its fastenings at either end which would have secured it to a brass comb mount.
The tiara comprises a curved openwork double gallery with a design of double scrolls which meet in the centre front. The arches in the gallery are set with a row of faceted coral beads, graduated so that those at the extremities are smaller than the ones in the centre. Set above this on a row of spikes is a graduated row of larger faceted coral balls.
This one may originally have been part of a set, consisting of a matching comb and tiara in a fitted case. The usual metal for them was silver, or silver gilt, (which is sterling silver which has been over-gilded), or as in this case, fire-gilt brass. This is nowadays usually given the name Pinchbeck. This metal gives the appearance of gold because it does not tarnish, although in fact it contains no gold at all.
Tiara mounts such as this, also called frontlets, were often purchased as part of a set which may contain a number of frontlets in different materials. The final picture is a compilation of some of the various designs which may be found in tiara combs of this period and is taken from contemporary portraits. A set with a comb mount and frontlets is shown in the centre.
A form of hair comb which appeared in the early 19th century was what we now call a tiara comb. This is an ornament in which the teeth or prongs are set at a 90 degree angle to the decorative heading. When the object is worn the backwards projecting teeth are concealed beneath the front hair, and the upstanding front piece gives the appearance of a tiara proper.
In France, where most of these decorative tiara combs were produced, it was possible to secure matching sets. The ornamental headings, which were called frontlets, were secured to a detachable set of teeth by a small clip or screw fitting at either end or in the centre. A set might therefore contain a set of plain brass teeth, and two or three frontlets in different materials which could be changed to suit the occasion.
Faux pearls, coral and various collared semi precious gemstones or pastes were the favourite modes of decoration. The frontlets were made in a fairly limited range of openwork patterns, such as florals, feathers, scrollwork or clusters of grapes, with the decorative stones placed to accentuate the design. Other classic type designs such as the Greek key or fret pattern and laurel wreath designs were also popular. These frontlets were often finished off along the top edge with a series of upstanding pins, each of which accommodated a faceted bead or jewel.
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