A late Georgian or early Victorian tortoiseshell Spanish style hair comb with silver pique inlay
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 ins h x 5½ ins w (13 x 15 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1800 – 1830s
MATERIALS: tortoiseshell, silver inlay
Here is a very beautiful late Georgian or early Victorian comb in natural pressed tortoiseshell with silver pique inlay. High mantilla style combs such as this were at the height of their popularity during the late 1820s and early 1830s. However their height had diminished to more modest proportions by the accession of Victoria.
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 comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is not very pronounced, lighter semi transparent patches confined to the top edge of the heading.
The heading itself has a wedge shape with a scalloped upper border. At the top, beneath the scalloped edge, is a formalised pique inlay in a simple floral and scroll design. This is separated from the lower area of the heading by several impressed ridges. This very beautiful example has ten long slender tines. These tines are all nicely pointed, not broken or chipped at the bottom as in many shell combs.
Pressed combs are most often found in steer horn, but natural tortoiseshell could also be treated in this manner to obtain elaborate decorative effects. Combs known as “pressed” were manufactured by pressing and squeezing the material between heated iron plates until it softened. It could then be placed into in mould and would retain the desired shape when it cooled.
Pique is the decorative treatment of inlaying precious metals into another material, usually tortoiseshell, but occasionally horn or other substances. This technique has a long history, and was extensively used for the decoration of hair combs and other personal adornments during the reign of Victoria. When gently heated, usually by insertion in hot water, natural organic materials soften to permit the inlaying of small pieces of metal or other substance. When cool, the ground material contracts to hold the pieces in tightly in place without the need for adhesive.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ This item is over 100 years old and therefore fulfills the Endangered Species requirement for antiques. If this item includes any CITES Appendix I materials documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export will be included with it at shipment.
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