A handsome Victorian hinged hair comb in faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3½ ins h x 5 ins w (9 x 13 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
This is a classic Victorian hinged comb of the mid to later 19th century. The comb has two tines and a curved heading and is made from the dark variety of celluloid faux tortoiseshell. Mottled tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of decoration, continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the lustre and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not thought complete without her combs.
A salient feature of this hair accessory is that the heading is attached to the prongs by a flexible hinge of gilt metal, which allows it to rotate through 90 or more degrees. This allows the comb to be adjusted to various positions within the coiffure. It may be worn either in the back of the hairdressing or above the forehead as a tiara. In this latter case the prongs would be concealed among the front hair. This is why it is often called a tiara comb, because in wear it gives the effect of a much more formal ornament.
The surface of the material in this hair ornament is beautifully marked with the typical “tortoise” style mottling and is a very faithful imitation of genuine shell. Many of the later 19th century the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. Some of them are very convincing and difficult to distinguish from the genuine material, and are skillfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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.
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