A pretty late 19th century two pronged hair comb with Damascene embellishment
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4½ ins h x 2 ins w (11 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s - 1900
MATERIALS: celluloid, metal
Here is a handsome late Victorian hair ornament in the form of a two pronged comb or hair pin. The comb mount is made from celluloid faux tortoiseshell and the heading has an ornamental plate affixed to it.
This ornamental plate is decorated in a style known as Damascene or sometimes Toledo work, because it is a specialty of the Spanish city of Toledo. The theme, which is very typical of this work, features a fabulous beast set in a roundel in the centre. It is surrounded by a formalised leaf and scrollwork design.
Damascene "Damasquinado de Oro” or "Damasquino" is the art of decorating non-precious metals with gold. It has roots in the Middle Ages and originates from the oriental-style artisan work done in Damascus, Syria. The craft, perfected by the Arabs and brought with them to Spain, has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries.
Damascene items generally reflect two distinct traditional types of patterns; the Arabesque or geometric designs, and the Renaissance motifs, displaying variations of birds and flowers.
These patterns are obtained by engraving deep, patterned cuts into steel and then placing a gold foil into the lines of the design. This foil is hammered until the gold (18/greenish and 24/yellow carat) penetrates into the cuts, forming the design. Each piece is treated with a bluing solution to obtain oxidation and a black background is created. The back of all Damascene pieces are finished with gold metal. Toledo is the world's largest center of production of Damascene. The city of Toledo is one of the richest historically and culturally endowed cities in all of Spain.
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