An elaborate mid Victorian faux tortoiseshell tiara style headdress with classic balls design
CONDITION: 2 repairs to upstanding elements
SIZE: 1½ ins h centre front and stretches to 6 ins diameter (4 x 15 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a delightful faux tortoiseshell tiara style ornament which probably dates from the second half of the reign of Victoria.
It takes the form of a coronet with alternate balls and pear shaped motifs in the same faux tortoiseshell. The balls are set up on spikes atop triangular motifs, like many of the combs of the period. These balls were a favourite way of decorating the tops of mantilla style hair combs at this time, and are found in many different materials.
Here both the balls and the upstanding pear shaped elements are graduated in size, with the largest being in the centre front and the smaller at the extremities.
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 skilfully 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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