A handsome comb of French Jet late Victorian mourning
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4¼ ins w (7.5 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid, French jet stones
Combs of this type are typically known as back combs because they were specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the dressing. This is shown by the fact that they are deeply curved to fit the back of the head. Such combs are almost always wider than they are high and the top gives scope for some kind of decorative treatment.
This one has a comb base of black celluloid and a heading which is decorated with French jet. In this case the jets are attached to a fabric base which is then closely secured to the top of the heading. This decorative topping incorporates an elaborate design with different shapes and sizes of the jet pieces.
French jet is a glittering form of black glass which was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia, in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was extremely popular for jewellery making.
The importance of Victorian mourning etiquette upon the production of jewellery and personal ornaments was very marked. This etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the UK. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was French Jet.
The final illustration shows the dress of a late Victorian widow and a selection of jet hair accessories and jewelry.
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