An unusual matched pair of single prong gilded and embellished faux tortoiseshell hair pins
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 6 ins h x 2 ins w (15 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, rhinestones, gilding
Here we have a matched pair of so-called “hair daggers” being an unusual form of single pronged hair accessory which was popular around the turn of the 20th century. Nowadays we would probably call them hair picks. They are very wearable with a modern up do such as a French twist or a messy bun.
The ornaments are made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell and do indeed resemble daggers or arrows, with their long shaft which is intended to pierce the high chignon. The heading is formed into an arrow shape with an elaborate design enhanced by gilding and small clear rhinestones.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar dagger like ornaments, and illustrates how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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 looking hair accessories. Some of these hair accessories had only one or two tines.
Along with this fashion for closer hair styles came a vogue for ornaments in all manner of eccentric forms. So the fashionable lady’s topknot might be pierced by swords, daggers, arrows, or axes. It is as though no object was too odd or unusual to decorate milady’s coiffure.
Alongside the daggers and swords was a vogue for single pronged ornaments which we would now term hair picks or hair sticks. 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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